Cayman Islands government spends $3M on Ebola preparations

The Cayman Islands government is spending nearly $3 million preparing for potential Ebola virus cases, though it says it is unlikely the disease will reach these shores. 

A total of $2.9 million has been spent on a field hospital, associated equipment, staff training and supplies to handle Ebola cases, according to local health officials. 

This includes the Health Services Authority’s purchase of a $1.2 million Ebola-rated Odulair field hospital with capacity for up to eight patients, which will be set up in the Cayman Islands Hospital’s staff parking lot. A ventilator, dialysis machine, monitors, a wheelchair, laser thermometer and 36 reusable helmets have also been purchased, officials said. 

While waiting for the new field hospital to arrive, a temporary quarantine area has been identified and is being equipped and supplied, should a worst-case scenario arise, according to health officials. 

The Health Services Authority has also bought 500 protective “hazmat” suits to ensure local staff are protected. In a short-lived Ebola scare last month, when a U.S. visitor to Cayman was briefly suspected of having the virus, medics in hazmat suits transported the patient by ambulance to the Cayman Islands Hospital. Doctors later diagnosed her as having stomach flu.  

There have been no cases of Ebola in Cayman or the Caribbean to date and the threat of the virus entering Cayman is low, officials said.  

“Although the threat is very low, things could change and for that reason we should not be complacent,” said Osbourne Bodden, minister of health. 

Hospital chiefs have been meeting to develop policies and procedures, but a formal protocol for hospital staff has not yet been released.  

Should hospital staff encounter a suspected Ebola case, the Cayman Islands Hospital has identified front-line “Ebola Virus Disease Carers,” and select staff received training overseas about two weeks ago, according to a statement released by health officials Wednesday.  

As well as the $1.2 million spent on the field hospital and its equipment, $1.7 million will be used to cover staff training, inpatient staffing, emergency medical services and supplies, health officials said. 

Travel ban 

In an effort to cut down on the chances of the virus reaching Cayman, Cabinet last month approved a travel ban, which stops anyone from entering the country who has been to Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone or the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 21 days prior to arriving in Cayman. 

The Cayman Islands Immigration Department also developed a travel health questionnaire which has been distributed to all airlines flying into the Cayman Islands. All tourists and returning residents are required to complete the form.  

According to officials, there are 14 Nigerian nationals and one Liberian national living in Grand Cayman at the moment, and air passenger traffic from West Africa to the Cayman Islands is low. 

Ebola is an infectious and generally fatal disease marked by fever and severe internal bleeding, and is transmitted through bodily fluids.  

Countries with widespread transmission include the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There have also been cases reported in Nigeria, Spain, the United States and most recently, Bamako, Mali. 

“The global picture is changing every day,” said Cayman’s Medical Officer of Health Kiran Kumar. “Hence, in addition to the countries with the travel ban, travelers from Mali also will be subjected to health screening and quarantine measures on arrival in Cayman.” 

The virus has claimed 5,160 lives, according to the World Health Organization. 

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  1. The Ebola disease is serious, and we need to take it serious. I definitely support the efforts and money spent by the Health ministry in preparation. The saying is that and ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

  2. While I commend the health services authority and CIG for thinking ahead and having travel ban, 3 million is a lot of money for a potential outbreak. As the article states, there have been no cases in the Caribbean. The hysteria in the U.S. after health-workers became infected lead to overkill. It’s not even in the news anymore.

    In the US, there are only 25 beds designated for Ebola patients at 4 different centers.
    (Four small but well-equipped wards across the U.S. provide a front line of treatment for highly infectious diseases and bioterrorism attacks–Scientific American, Oct. 2014). That amounts to 1 bed per 14 million people. Now we have an isolation unit which provides 1 bed per 7000 people. With little to no evidence that such a large unit is needed for a population of 55,000 to 60,00, did CIG really have to spend over 1 million dollars for this facility? I’m sure readers will agree that there are more pressing matters and a much smaller unit could have been obtained for much less cost.

  3. I can understand that some persons may feel that $3 Mil. is a lot of money to spend on protection from Ebola in or Islands, but just suppose it happens to your next door neighbor or someone you work with; would you not be worried for yourself and children. When we had the scare the other day, I even heard persons saying they were afraid to go to work. Not good. I do not believe we should just take something so serious for granted. The fact that it is not in the Caribbean, does not change my staying concern in interacting with travelling persons. I do hope the people in Africa get some cure, and pray that it never reaches our shores.