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Just a few more days now for the Cuban Medical Brigade as Health struggles to find and keep staff



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


#TurksandCaicos, July 15, 2022 – After two years the Cuban Brigade is nearly ready to exit the island and will be leaving in a few days’ time; July 19 was revealed as the final day for the medical team from nearby Cuba which bolstered local medical staff during the earlier days of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Medical staff members are a hot commodity right now and small island states are struggling to keep nurses and doctors at home in the face of larger, richer countries dangling extremely lucrative salaries and career options in attempts to lure the professional out of the region.

It is working and the Turks and Caicos is no different.

“As soon as we recruit a new nurse we have a nurse that is leaving us,” said Dr Denise Braithwaite-Tennant, CEO of InterHealth Canada.

Minister of Health Jamell Robinson explained that while they had been recruiting it was a difficult process and they were hopeful that they would be able to fill their positions.

“Hopefully we do get the responses we need because there is a significant competition across the world for these types of professionals. Hopefully we’ve pitched the jobs and remuneration packages at a level that we will attract the persons we need to be able to fill these roles.”

He explained that people rescinding offers at the last minute was a problem for the Turks and Caicos as well.

“The deal is not done until the person is on the ground because we’ve made offers to people and then weeks before they are supposed to get on the ground they rescind.”

Dr. Braithwaite-Tennant explained why it was so difficult not only to get nurses specifically on-island but to keep them in the Turks and Caicos.

“Mainly they are leaving to be travel nurses in the United States which is commanding access to green cards and higher remuneration. Travel Nurses can earn between $4,000 to $5,000 a week so we are competing with that.”

Braithwaite-Tennant, who is native to Turks and Caicos thanked the soon to depart Cuban Medical Brigade for its service to the TCI during the pandemic. To replace them the TCI Hospitals is seeking 10 more full time specialty nurses.

“What this pandemic has shown us is that the capacity to access specialist nurses in the [local] community is not there.”

Dr. Braitwaite-Tennant said this could be dangerous in times of emergency, as the TCI uses overseas personnel to step in when their doctors go on leave.

“What happened during the pandemic is everyone held on to their specialists so we had doctors going months and months and months without being able to get leave. That’s not sustainable.”

She said to fix it they wanted to introduce medical interns to offset the workload and were recruiting aggressively to fill advanced posts as well.

In mental health at least things are looking up, Robinson explained most of the required staff for the Grand Turk Mental Health clinic had been sourced.

“A number of the personnel, I think about 80 percent of the people we wanted to hire, we’ve identified and they are in-country.”

Additionally the minister said they had good prospects for the Port Health Authority and recruitment was now closed. Describing it as a priority for the Health Ministry Robinson said.

“The next time we have a pandemic event we will have the personnel in place beforehand as opposed to trying to catch up to it after.”

The CEO of the hospitals thanked the community for its patience and reminded that some of the long wait times were a direct result of the staff shortages.





Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer



March 27, 2023 – With total cases past 90 thousand in this outbreak Mpox is still a public health emergency of international concern according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).  The organisation has elected not to remove the designation from the disease which spread across the globe late 2022 in an unprecedented outbreak.

Despite acknowledging that most of the over 110 affected countries had cured their outbreaks and brought cases under control Technical lead for Mpox, formerly Monkey Pox, and the WHO Rosamund Lewis said there were still areas of concern mainly the Americas.

Over thirty countries are still reporting cases with the bulk coming from Central and Latin America and a few still occurring in Europe and Africa.  Once again the WHO is warning men who have sex with men to take precautions against the disease as they are most at risk.

Regardless Lewis says everyone should remain cautious especially in the coming spring and summer seasons where activities, outdoor concerts and more may increase, increasing risk. 

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Bahamas News

7 million lives at risk because of salt 



Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 



March 24, 2023 – Without immediate and widespread efforts at curbing salt intake, 7 million lives will be lost by 2030 according to the World Health Organization.  The warning follows the first-ever Global Report on Sodium Intake Reduction, which revealed that the world would not meet its sodium intake reduction target of 30 percent by 2025 on its current path.

With only 5% of WHO Member States protected by mandatory and comprehensive sodium reduction policies, the rest of the world must immediately implement ‘highly cost-effective sodium reduction policies to protect against some of the most common non-communicable diseases.

No Caribbean country was mentioned in the group of nine countries with comprehensive salt laws, but Barbados is currently set to make effective stringent regulations to govern food consumption and food quality. 

Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General said: 

“Most countries are yet to adopt any mandatory sodium reduction policies, leaving their people at risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems. The WHO calls on all countries to implement the ‘Best Buys’ for sodium reduction, and on manufacturers to implement the WHO benchmarks for sodium content in food.” 

North America and the Caribbean have the highest child diabetes statistics in the world, with the second highest prevalence in adults as well. In Turks and Caicos in particular, over 300 hundred residents have failing kidneys, a number described as ‘alarming’ by experts. Kidney disease is fueled in most cases by diabetes and hypertension. 

The WHO is then advising Governments to do four things:

  • Reformulating foods to contain less salt, and setting targets for the amount of sodium in foods and meals. 
  • Establishing public food procurement policies to limit salt or sodium-rich foods in public institutions such as hospitals, schools, workplaces, and nursing homes.
  • Front-of-package labelling that helps consumers select products lower in sodium.
  • Behaviour change communication and mass media campaigns to reduce salt/sodium consumption.

With these measures in place, the salt reduction target can still be achieved, according to the WHO. 

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ChikV is back!  The Americas see sharp increase and nearly 100 deaths



By Rashaed Esson with Deandrea Hamilton

Editorial Staff



March 23, 2023 – The region is once again facing off with a public health risk and while not new,  the return, prevalence and lethal impact of the virus is wreaking new and heartbreaking havoc; it has also caused the Pan American Health Organization to issue warnings to Member countries urging them to prepare and reinforce their responses to Chikunguna; transmitted by mosquito and responsible for nearly 100 deaths last year.

According to PAHO, the Americas saw an increase in deaths and cases from ChikV in 2022. In fact, PAHO charted 273,685 cases and 87 deaths in 2022; 14 countries and territories in the Americans were reporting.

“This figure is higher than that observed in the same period of 2021 (137,025 cases, including 12 deaths),” according to PAHO/WHO.

In addition, the occurrence of the diseases has gone beyond the historical areas of transmission reported since 2014, which leaked into the first few weeks of 2023.

Paraguay and Brazil were identified in the March 8 report.  The pair of South/Central American countries carry the highest incidence rates of 1,128 cases per 100,000 population.  For Paraguay and 14.2 cases per 100,000 population and for Brazil or 115,539 cases and 33 deaths were reported in the first epidemiological week (EW) of 2023.

For Paraguay, between December and February, a total of 34,659 cases were categorised as probable and confirmed, including 2,910 hospitalizations and 34 deaths.

It is unimaginable that after pushing down the instance and detrimental impacts of ChikV that any nation would count 34 people dead as a result of the mosquito borne virus.  While control of the virus is relatively good, progress on life-saving, preventative medical intervention is stagnant.

“While there are several vaccines currently in different stages of development (as of Dec 2022) they are yet to be licensed. There is no commercial vaccine available to protect against chikungunya virus infection,” informs the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, the virus spread chiefly by the Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquitoes is giving no indication of slowing down in the two nations cited as concerning by PAHO.

“Of total of cases reported (in Paraguay) during this period, 93% of cases (32,258/34,659) and 97% (33/34) of deaths were reported between EW 1 and 8 in 2023,” according to PAHO/WHO.

For Brazil, in 2023, between January and February, there were 35,566 probable and confirmed cases; a 109.6 percent relative increase compared to the same period in 2022. One death is confirmed as due to ChikV; 13 others are still under investigation.

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