Field hospital plan abandoned as global threat recedes
Plans for a field hospital to help handle potential Ebola cases in the Cayman Islands have been abandoned.
With the outbreak of the deadly virus seemingly under control in West Africa, public health officials have drastically scaled down plans to upgrade the territory’s infrastructure.
Initially, officials said $3 million would be spent on “Ebola preparedness,” including $1.2 million on an Ebola-rated field hospital. To date, just over $30,000 has been spent on training and equipment.
The order for the eight-bed unit from U.S. company Odulair was placed on hold and then canceled as the global threat from Ebola began to recede.
An incinerator and decontamination unit are still on order, according to a statement to the Cayman Compass from the Health Services Authority and the Ministry of Health.
Health officials could not provide a revised estimate for the total amount that would be spent. Screening remains in place at Cayman’s points of entry, and a travel ban is still in effect for anyone who has visited countries affected by the outbreak in the 21 days prior to traveling to Cayman.
Quarantine and isolation areas have been identified in the Cayman Islands Hospital grounds, away from patient areas.
Those areas were initially viewed as a temporary measure to protect the public from anyone diagnosed with the highly contagious virus.
Premier and Health Minister Alden McLaughlin said that with the addition of the incinerator and decontamination unit, those areas would be considered satisfactory, without the need for a new field hospital.
He said the incinerator could also be used for disposing of routine biological waste.
At the height of the Ebola outbreak in October, when the virus dominated news headlines, there was widespread concern that medics returning from the affected regions would spread the disease beyond Africa.
There were a few, isolated cases in the U.S. and Europe. The Cayman Islands’ status as a global travel destination put officials on alert. They said at the time that the chances of the virus reaching Cayman were very low but insisted the country needed to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.
An Ebola planning committee was set up, and measures taken so far include:
Purchase of personal protective equipment and training for HSA staff on their use
Quarantine and isolation areas established on hospital grounds
HSA arranged for staff to visit a hospital where Ebola patients were treated to get exposure to the processes adopted
A Pan American Health Organization team has been asked to come to Cayman to review the islands’ preparedness plans.
More than 22,000 cases of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola have been reported since the outbreak began, with almost 8,800 known deaths.
The World Health Organization said last month that the number of new Ebola cases reported in the three worst-hit countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – fell to its lowest level since late June. WHO officials said the response has shifted from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic.
The U.S., which at one point had 2,800 Department of Defense employees in West Africa helping to deal with the outbreak, has now reduced its presence in the country to just 100 troops.