Prime Minister & PAHO Director Discuss COVID-19 & NCDs

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, discussing COVID-19 and NCD matters during their courtesy call at Ilaro Court, yesterday. (Photo credit: C. Pitt/BGIS)

Author: Government of Barbados

Barbados’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its tackling of the debilitating burden of non-chronic communicable diseases (NCDs) on the island’s economy, were among the areas discussed when Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa Etienne, paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.

During the meeting at Ilaro Court on Thursday, Ms. Mottley expressed her deep appreciation to the Organization, on behalf of the Government and people of Barbados, for providing the resources to assist in the COVID-19 fight.

“I don’t know how I can thank you enough on behalf of the people of Barbados for all that you did.  In addition, your willingness to put a member of your staff outside of Barbados to be on speed dial to us, at all times; we will also be very grateful to her too…,” the Prime Minister stated making reference to the PAHO Advisor, Dr. Marion Bullock-Ducasse.

Ms. Mottley and Dr. Etienne also touched on mental health issues that had impacted some individuals negatively as a result of the pandemic. 

The PAHO Director praised PM Mottley emphasising that CARICOM was fortunate to have had her strong leadership at the helm of the regional body in the early stages of the pandemic.

Dr. Etienne cautioned that we were still battling the pandemic with respect to particular mental health issues and suggested full scale mental health intervention given the effects of COVID-19 on children, women, men and health care workers.

The Prime Minister, in agreeing with this recommendation, shared that her Government was collaborating with non-governmental organisations, volunteers and others to provide a listening ear to those facing mental health challenges.

She noted that Barbados had one of the earliest psychiatric hospitals in the Americas which was opened in the 1870s and discussions were ongoing to change the approach, delivery and philosophy of mental wellness, especially for the island’s youth.

While discussing the NCD crisis within the Caribbean, Ms. Mottley pointed out that Barbados was facing an “epidemic of diabetes” and noted that citizens were urged to get tested for the disease.

She added that the increase in dialysis patients was unsustainable and stressed that the cadre of community nurses hired recently by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) was a critical component of Government’s efforts to alleviate the pressure on the QEH by treating the 2,000 most critical diabetic patients outside of the hospital setting.

Dr. Etienne suggested renal transplantation as a cost effective measure to addressing the dialysis situation. 

On this point, the Prime Minister disclosed that Dr. Velma Scantlebury, a Barbadian, and the first black kidney transplant surgeon in the United States, was keen to assist in this regard.

The two officials also discussed the need for a regional calorie counter in light of the high incidence of diabetes and cancer.


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