Narace disclosed yesterday at a press conference at the Ministry of Health head office, Park Street, Port-of-Spain. He said that his ministry was working with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to put measures in place to deal with a possible pandemic.
“We have developed a pandemic plan and we are working very closely with PAHO,” he said, noting that the country is now experiencing the second wave of the H1N1 virus.
He said the ministry has done a fairly good job in sensitising the public about the virus but had some challenges in getting individuals to understanding precisely how they should respond.
As of yesterday, four persons had died of the H1N1 virus with 163 cases being confirmed.
He said instructions have been given to the Chief Medical Officer Dr Anton Cumberbatch to conduct a thorough investigation into the deaths of the four people who died from the virus, including the private clinics.
He said the persons who died were admitted at the San Fernando General Hospital at a late stage in the course of their illness and they all suffered respiratory distress.
He said they had meetings with director general of PAHO in Washington and was assured that 260, 000 vaccines will arrive in the country by mid-November.
“At this point what we should all be concerned about is the prevention of the spread of the virus and ensuring that the public has all the information it needs to help us achieve that. The rest of the H1N1 cases treated in our country thus far have been relatively mild, most of them were managed at home and returned to their normal activities within seven to ten days,” he said.
Narace said the ministry has done everything to ensure the country is ready to respond and cited extensive training beginning next week for primary care professionals on clinical management and treatment of H1N1 patients.
Chief Medical Officer Anton Cumberbatch said the H1N1virus was a public health problem and the ministry was working with both public and private health care institutions to manage the virus.
He said private hospitals were now utilising the public sector laboratories for screening and diagnosis and was even requesting Tamiflu, which the ministry has been supplying for free. Cumberbatch stressed the ministry wanted to formalise a relationship with all private sector hospitals which will allow them to stock Tamiflu on their compound.
Dr Helmer Hilwig, head of accident and emergency, at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) explained that Tamiflu is administered to high risk and severely ill people. “Persons with mild illness do not need Tamiflu. The decision of the administration of the drug lies with the physician,” he said.
He explained patients with severe illness and emergency symptoms will be admitted to the hospital and said there was proper infection control at the hospital. Meanwhile Dr Kumar Sundaraneedi, director of medical programmes at the ministry said a national plan has been established and each hospital had its own micro plan.
“Health services have been prepared with an operational response plan to the hospitals and the counties and this addresses the surge capacity that might build up during a pandemic situation,” he said, adding that each hospital has set aside 20-40 beds to deal with the virus. He also said there was an increase in the stock pile of personal protective equipment such as respiratory masks in the hospitals, health centres and nursing homes in the event there is an increase in the number of people being affected with the virus.
Dr Carol Boyd Scobie, a PAHO/WHO representative, explained that Tamiflu is not used to prevent H1N1 and arrangements have been made with PAHO to get the vaccine here. Boyd-Scobie said the pandemic plans are designed to minimise societal disruption.