Health Ministry in recovery

The Ministry of Health has laid out its recovery and future mitigation arrangements in the event of another disaster of the magnitude of Hurricane Ivan.

The presentation took place 13 December at a top-level meeting of the Cayman Islands Recovery Operation, states a GIS press release.

The Ministry of Health is responsible for such diverse but essential services as the Islands’ government hospitals, the Meteorological Services, Radio Cayman, Civil Aviation, Health Insurance, Public Works, National Roads Authority and Agriculture,

Health Services

A newly formed Health Services Authority Recovery Committee is overseeing the restoration and future mitigation processes at the government hospitals. Most service schedules have been returned to normalcy, but caring for staff issues (housing, transportation, and psychological needs) remains a high priority, as well as replacing destroyed HSA vehicles and medical equipment. Work on the most seriously damaged of the outlying health centres, the Jessie Ritch Memorial Health Centre in Bodden Town, is expected to be complete by February 2005.

Challenging areas for the Cayman Islands Hospital include the loss of staff members in key income-generating areas, loss of income, and huge demands on repair personnel.

Among initiatives, the Ministry has formed a mental health strategic planning committee to monitor the continuing post-Ivan need for community mental health services and to develop programmes as needed.

A hurricane recovery help line has been activated to provide counselling and information to callers.

Damage

While the main physical plant at the Cayman Islands Hospital sustained only minor damage, some of the infrastructure for ancillary services was extensively damaged. Among those were the older facilities and some at the rear of the hospital, chiefly the forensic unit, dietary facilities, materials management building and the sewage treatment plan. Also seriously damaged were the eye and dental clinics and, the most severe among outlying clinics, the (Jessie Ritch Memorial Health Centre).

Future Mitigation

The hospital intends to secure an additional generator for back up, rather than the one unit that serves the hospital and was put out of commission by Ivan, creating a potentially dangerous situation for some patients.

The plan also calls for raising the generators up by one floor height and housing them in a reinforced concrete structure.

Other measures include a better-trained and enhanced security presence, a battery/generator-operated PA system, additional emergency electrical outlets within some areas, and development of an employee disaster booklet. More than 1,000 persons were sheltered at the hospital during Ivan and some 150 medical staff (now reduced to 21) continued to be accommodated there post-Ivan.

Manpower is therefore a focus of future mitigation efforts, and the HSA is setting up a trust fund to assist its personnel. A number of hospitals in Jamaica and the US have been contacted with a view to incorporating in their staffing plans the possibility of secondment of staff to the Cayman Islands hospitals for periods of some 30 to 60 days, post-disaster.

In the area of mental health services, the Ministry of Health has proposed a comprehensive study of all mental health services to inform future planning.

The Owen Roberts International Airport

The airport terminal, as well as navigational aids and runway lighting sustained major damage during Ivan. Progress continues in repairing equipment and facilities and in restoring optimal operations.

Among future mitigation initiatives, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority is investigating the viability of upgrading the main terminal.

The Meteorological Service

Met Office facilities were extensively damaged during the hurricane, severely impacting its ability to function post-Ivan.

Public Works Department/National Roads Authority

Damage to PWD and NRA facilities was extensive, but both continue to manage the Herculean recovery effort demanded of these two key departments.

Public Works’ priority is the rebuilding of schools and other government buildings, for which it is seeking to hire three new project managers.

The National Roads Authority is completing the restoration of roads. Road corridors scheduled for works include West Bay Road, South Sound, Spotts, Bodden Town, Breakers, East End, High Rock and Colliers Pond.

Radio Cayman

Radio Cayman received major damage to its building and facilities. Studio equipment and antennae will be replaced by January 2005.

The radio station is also ensuring that it has independent electricity back up, as it shares a generator with the police station and the Government Administration Building.

The generator failed several times pre- and post-Ivan. Its replacement will be elevated to avoid flooding to the system, and the main doors to Radio Cayman’s building will be sealed to avoid seepage.

Agriculture

The Agriculture Department sustained major damage to the second floor of its building as well as to its equipment and vehicles. Its telephone service has been completely compromised, relegating communication to a temporary fax machine and two cellular phones.

The department is liaising with PWD in the repair of its building and is assisting farmers in restoration efforts as needed. Initiatives have included debris removal and beautification. A wider restoration programme may be developed as the situation evolves.

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