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Free community testing makes back to school easier

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, February 7, 2022 – Community testing on the weekend ahead of a return to face to face learning for thousands of Turks and Caicos children looked a lot younger, and the free opportunity was a blessing.

“It’s very important, especially for me because I have a lot of kids, so if I had to pay for each one of them, I think the cheapest service privately is $30, so that’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight times thirty. That’s a lot of money so it’s very important,” said Takera Francis, who brought a cute troop of children at the Carolina Medical Center in down town Providenciales for the free testing.

Some schools have asked for children to be tested and for parents to present a negative Covid-19 test result prior to reentering the school campuses and classrooms on Monday.

“So we came to get them tested to come back in school to make sure that they are COVID-free and to also protect other students and teachers as well,” said Ms. Francis.

Turks and Caicos is into phase four of its roadmap to reopening schools and Ms. Francis confided that she felt comforted by the request from her school to have children screened. She is ready for children to return to face to face learning.

“If we could go to work, why they can’t they go to school?” she questioned.

From the children who hopped into the chair one by one, there was some hesitation, some fidgeting and nose rubbing in the testing process, but it was smooth, easy and digitized.

“If they wanted to go back to school, they needed to get tested.”

Results were snappy and evidence of the result was e-mailed to those who turned out.

Saturday’s free community testing was conducted by Carolina Medical Clinic, with testing kits provided by the Turks and Caicos Ministry of Health.  Omni Care Medical held one in the same area in early January.

Free community testing, hosted by the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association continues at the Harvest Bible Chapel on Leeward Highway east on Mondays from 9am to noon and Thursdays at the Church of St Monica.

Over the weekend, a special testing center was set up for eastern residents by the TCHTA at the Blue Haven Resort.

Rachel Taylor, TCI Minister of Education during her January 27, House of Assembly ministerial statement, announced that the majority of schools in the country will return to face to face education on January 31.

All schools with student populations under 200 children were approved to convene fully. Those with more students enrolled were to run a hybrid programme, making allowance for a return of all sixth graders at the primary school level and fourth, and fifth formers in the high schools to get back to full face to face learning.

The Omicron strain of the Coronavirus put the brakes on face to face learning to begin the 2021-2022 second semester, with TCI peaking at over 800 active cases in January.  Figures have since dropped dramatically and in the first week back to in person learning for most students, there have been no reports of outbreaks of Covid-19.

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Ministry of Health and Human Services Conducts Emergency Vehicle Operators Course for Emergency Medical Services Personnel

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Ministry of Health and Human Services successfully conducted Emergency Vehicle Operator Training for Emergency Medical Services Department in March 2024.

The Ministry of Health and Human Services has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the safety and efficiency of emergency services across the Turks and Caicos Islands with the successful completion of an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course. Hosted for all members of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department, this course marks a significant step in the ongoing efforts to provide high quality emergency response services.

Tailored specifically for ambulance operators, the course featured a comprehensive curriculum blending theoretical knowledge with practical skills. Participants underwent rigorous training encompassing critical safety practices essential for effective emergency responses. The amalgamation of didactic instruction and hands-on training enabled operators to navigate emergency situations with precision and confidence, fostering a culture of safety paramount for preserving lives.

In times of crisis, the EMS Department emphasizes the importance of well-trained and composed responders. Equipped with the skills acquired through this specialized course, EMS personnel are better prepared to address emergencies promptly and effectively, ensuring timely assistance to individuals in need.

The course, conducted by esteemed expert Mike Massaro, President of Trilogy Emergency Medical Solutions, ran from March 19th to March 22nd, 2024, across all islands. Mr. Massaro commended the EMS Department members for their enthusiasm and dedication to learning, acknowledging their pivotal role in enhancing community safety.

Participants lauded the interactive teaching approach employed throughout the course, noting its effectiveness in making lessons both engaging and informative. Their positive feedback underscores the value of practical, hands-on training in bolstering emergency response capabilities.

Minister of Health and Human Services, Honorable Shaun D Malcolm commented that “I am confident that the principles instilled during this course will significantly contribute to the safety and well-being of individuals accessing emergency services. By investing in continuous training and development, the Ministry remains steadfast in its mission to deliver safe, efficient and reliable emergency care to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

For more information, please visit the Turks and Caicos Islands Ministry of Health and Human Services Facebook pagE at https://www.facebook.com/tciministryofhealth/.

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Dengue cases rising in Region 

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Dana Malcolm 
Staff Writer 

As of March 26, 2024, over 3.5 million cases of dengue and more than 1,000 deaths have been reported in the region, now, both the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), are ringing alarm bells about the outbreak as cases swell to record highs.

PAHO on March 28 called for collective action in the region to fight back the growing wave of infections.

“This is cause for concern, as it represents three times more cases than those reported for the same period in 2023, a record year with more than 4.5 million cases reported in the region,” Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO Director said during a press briefing.

For now cases are concentrated in three main countries: Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina which account for nearly all of them, around 92 percent, but infections are on the rise regionally.

According to Barbosa, Caribbean countries must still be vigilant as data is beginning to show increases in areas like Barbados. That is paired with concerns from PAHO that some countries may not be equipped to handle the surge.

Nearly $500,000 was allocated in the 2023 2024 budget to the environmental health department under The Turks and Caicos Ministry of Health and Human Services to help with dengue which had been listed as a public nuisance.

Last year in the Turks and Caicos Islands, only a few rounds of fogging were completed. According to data from the Appropriations Committee around 10% of communities were fogged on schedule. Explaining the low number, representatives of the Environmental Health Department (EHD) maintained that fogging was not the primary defense against mosquito breeding locally.

”Fogging should actually be a last resort, there are preventative measures such as the treatment of swamps, and inspection of residential areas and communities for breeding sites.”

Representatives admitted though that they were still hampered by a lack of resources.

The country declared an outbreak in late 2024. Now there is an ongoing public education campaign to make residents aware of what they need to do to keep their homes safe and free from mosquitoes in addition

The Turks and Caicos Islands EHD also says they have been provided with money to help with garbage disposal in their battle against the vector borne disease.

The Ministry has also contracted entomologists to research what kind of mosquitoes live in the country and how to tackle them.

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31 Turks & Caicos Medical Professionals, Trained in Trauma care

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Dana Malcolm 
Staff Writer 

In a first for the Turks and Caicos and one that some would describe as particularly important, over three dozen healthcare professionals were upskilled in emergency trauma care via Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) certification.

Trauma Care in emergency medicine usually refers to treating patients who are critically ill or have severe injuries and need to be quickly stabilized like gunshot wounds, damaged limbs, crush injuries, and stab wounds.

In 1976 following a plane crash involving a surgeon and his children who experienced substandard trauma care, the first ATLS course was created. It attempts to provide basic training for medical professionals when dealing with acute trauma cases where there is little staff on hand. In fact ATLS is supposed to work with as little as a single doctor and nurse team working together to stop the most critical injuries first, ensuring a better chance of survival.

This is particularly useful for the Turks and Caicos with its small hospitals and limited staff. Health officials admitted this, highlighting what they describe as ‘the pressing need for such training, particularly due to physician shortage, isolated communities in family islands and other barriers to accessing this critical training.’

Recognizing the need, the Hamilton Education Foundation jumped into action, and in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital and the American College of Surgeons conducted a Hybrid Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) Demo for 31 doctors in the Turks and Caicos Islands on May 22nd and 23rd, 2024.

Led by Professor Susan Briggs,the foundation describes the course as historic in that it’s the first-ever done outside the United States and says it is;“Crucial for enhancing the quality of healthcare delivery and saving lives in the face of increasing intentional and unintentional injuries.”

With the rise in gunshot injuries in the country, seen through police data since 2020 many residents might be inclined to agree.

While admitting it was difficult to measure if ATLS reduced mortality, a 2016 article published in the National Library of Medicine describes the courses as “very useful from an educational point of view. It significantly increased knowledge, and improved practical skills and the critical decision making process in managing multiple trauma patients”

Rufus Ewing, Former Premier and Executive Chairman of the Hamilton Education Foundation, said, “This initiative aligns with our mission to enhance medical education and improve access to quality healthcare services in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

The training received broad brush support from the Ministry of Health, TCI Hospital and private sector.

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