Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis, January 13, 2023 [Press Secretary’s Office]: Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew addressed the Health Minister’s Session of the Voice of South Summit 2023 (India) in a virtual forum this morning (January 13, 2023) as the CARICOM’s lead Head for Human Resources and Health.
The Global South refers to the developing and less developed countries of the world including the Caribbean Sub-Region and the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis.
The address was centered around the topic “Cooperation to build a resilient health care system” and addressed the challenges that impacted the CARICOM health care services over the past three years.
In his presentation, Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, and the Government of India on behalf of the Caribbean Community for the generosity extended during the COVID-19 pandemic. He stated, “We thank the Government of India for its donation of 570,000 doses of COVISHIELD (AstraZeneca Oxford University) COVID-19 Vaccines to CARICOM, the generous donation of 20,000 doses of COVISHIED vaccines, and a total of 400,000USD worth of life-saving medicines and medical supplies in 2020 & 2021.”
As the CARICOM’s lead Head for Human Resources & Health, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew works closely with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) which led the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic utilizing its strategic framework also referred to as the Caribbean Cooperation in Health Phase IV.
The Caribbean Cooperation in Health Phase IV or CCH IV is a strategic framework providing a road map for CARICOM member states (CMS) to address common health challenges efficiently and effectively.
The CARICOM’s lead Head for Human Resources & Health highlighted the numerous challenges and unprecedented impact COVID-19 had on CARICOM member states to date, especially in the areas of education, public health, digital security, tourism, and immigration. Dr. Drew stated that –
“Our children experienced a reduction in reading and learning losses due to the prolonged closure of schools. We have learned that the closure of schools should be the last resort going forward. It is also important that we find a balance between the implementation of appropriate public health measures in response to the pandemic versus the maintenance of economic activity and livelihoods in member states. The Ministries of Health could not do it all, but required all of the Government and non–governmental organizations to mount an effective response to COVID-19. There has also been an issue of illegal entry from neighbouring islands.”
The issue of Long COVID was also discussed in his presentation. Long COVID refers to post-COVID-19 conditions that happen in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed COVID-19 infection, usually three (3) months from the start of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least two (2) months and cannot be explained by another diagnosis.
According to Prime Minister Dr. Drew, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Mental Health challenges are intensified by Long COVID having caused issues with heart disease, diabetes, and brain fog. He emphasized that “there is a need for an aggressive way forward with NCDs and Long-Covid becoming a public health burden”.
“There is little data in the Caribbean on Long COVID. It is important for CMS to put in the mechanism to strengthen surveillance, recognize, track, and treat Long COVID and continue to promote vaccination and public health measures to prevent infection. Our experience over the past three years has underscored the importance of secure digital public goods in health, education, and business to allow virtual work, school, and health delivery impenetrable to cyber-criminal activities.” Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew stated.
CARICOM’s lead Head for Human Resources & Health, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew ended his presentation with a plea to safeguard the healthcare workforce. Dr. Drew spoke of the importance of regional cooperation by highlighting the issue of human resource development and management and the need to ensure continued health service delivery given the challenges surrounding human resource shortages experienced in the Caribbean subregion. During the height of the pandemic St. Kitts & Nevis and other member states benefited from health personnel from Cuba to assist with healthcare delivery during the surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Prime Minister stated that “there were many challenges and lessons learned. However, through regional cooperation and partnership over the past three years, we have mounted a successful response to the pandemic. The Caribbean is now in the post-peak phase and has fully opened our borders.”
Present at the virtual forum were the various Heads of Government of CARICOM, the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, and other health officials.