Nassau, Bahamas, September 5, 2019 (PAHO) —The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is focusing on clinical care to save the lives of persons who survived the hurricane and keeping people safe, with three Emergency Medical Teams arriving in the Bahamas, according to Dr. Esther de Gourville, PAHO/WHO’s Representative in the Bahamas.
“Clearly it is a desperate situation for some persons on Abaco,” she said, and PAHO is working with the Ministry of Health and emergency teams to help those who survived secure food supplies, safe drinking water and sanitation.
PAHO pre-deployed water and sanitation experts and health services experts to Bahamas even before Hurricane Dorian struck, Dr. de Gourville noted, and has experts in logistics, disease surveillance, coordination, information (data) management, and civil-military cooperation in place in the Bahamas office. Assessment of needs has begun, and a structures expert is looking at damaged health facilities.
PAHO pledged health sector infrastructure and public health support and is acting quickly with the support of the Ministry of Health to assess needs and damage assessments. An Incident Management System has been established in the country office. PAHO’s Disaster Response Team is supporting the Ministry of Health in all areas of the response and is expected to launch a funding appeal in the coming days.
Due to floodwaters and potential contamination with sewage and lack of safe water, the risk of diarrheal and waterborne diseases is high. Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama is flooded and supplies damaged, and other clinics on Grand Bahama and New Providence are also flooded. Patient evacuations will be needed and supplies from PAHO’s Panama Regional Warehouse are on standby.
PAHO used its extensive experience in emergency preparedness to improve disaster relief operations, setting up the structures to deploy emergency teams to support public health measures. Bahamas is the first Caribbean country to apply the WHO CICOM international standards to coordinate clinical care in disasters.
With many health centers flooded and unable to receive patients, a full hospital-capable Emergency Medical Team from Samaritans Purse is arriving in the Bahamas today for a three-month stay. The team includes six physicians and two surgeons, 16 nurses, two anesthesiologists, allied health personnel, and logistics and management staff. It brought 34 tons of medical equipment and tents to set up operations in Grand Bahama.
Another Emergency Medical Team from Team Rubicon was deployed to Abaco today for a 15-day mission. Abaco aerial surveillance shows vast devastation to the island’s infrastructure. Communications are being restored but there is still no electricity on the island, and water, sanitation and food have been identified as critical needs, according to PAHO’s Emergency Operations Center. Over 1,200 people are reported in various shelters in Great Abaco and Grand Bahama and an additional 800 are sheltering at Marsh Harbour Clinic.
A third Emergency Medical Team from Humanity First is expected to arrive tomorrow, and the Ministry of Health has designated Dr. Christa Well, medical officer in the emergency service of Princess Margaret Hospital, as the coordinator of the emergency teams. Dr. Well was one of 20 experts who were trained by PAHO in Barbados earlier this year. All the emergency teams are self-sufficient, by PAHO/WHO standards, and will collaborate with health officials in the Bahamas.