The program will ensure that there is permanent and continued surveillance of the island’s ports in order to protect its borders from diseases of a public health concern.
Currently, one of the procedures of the Port Health Program requires that a person of interest who enters the island is monitored for at least 21 days to ensure that they carry no signs or symptoms of disease.
“The Ebola outbreak caused us to reinstate the Port Health Program, and since then we have worked to ensure that it became a sustained effort and not just temporary, mainly in response to Ebola,” Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Merlene Fredericks said.
“We have increased our preparedness, improved our surveillance and put additional measures in place at our ports which is not only necessary for Ebola, but is also required to help Saint Lucia become International Health Regulations (IHR) compliant by 2016.”
International Health Regulations is a legally-binding agreement that aims to improve global health security by providing a framework for the management of events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern, and improve the capacity of countries to detect and respond to public health threats.
To this end, the Ministry of Finance approved funding for the Victoria and Saint Jude hospitals to strengthen their isolation units and to purchase the equipment necessary to outfit them. The Ministry of Finance also approved funding for permanent positions within the Port Health Program to ensure that there is a continued monitoring of the island’s ports.
And while the risk of Ebola in Saint Lucia remains low, Dr. Fredericks said that due to the reinstated Port Health Program, a person of interest will be immediately placed under surveillance and monitored for at least 21 days, as per procedure.