The Turks and Caicos Islands Ministry of Health and Human Services has unveiled its newly-acquired inflatable hospital on Friday, May 14 on Providenciales.
Government officials cut the ribbon to officially commission the field hospital
The unit, popularly known as ‘field hospital’, is a 20-bed facility, and is designed to serve as an overflow in times of a pandemic or a natural disaster, such as hurricanes or earthquakes.
Sharlene Higgs, Director of Health Disaster, Education and Training, explained the field hospital is designed to withstand 60 miles per hour wind speed. She said also that, among things, the unit is resistant to fire, ultra violet (UV) rays, pointing out also that plans to get other facilities for other islands have kick-started.
She further noted that the unit is also equipped with, among other things, LED lighting system, cots, blankets, linen, mobile dispensing kits and medical supplies to accommodate up to a hundred patients.
The tent-like unit that was on display at the Downtown ball park, where a ceremony was held to officially commission it into service, came as three separate tents, which are designed to interconnect into one, thereby creating a single unit facility.
“This is a multi-functional service, which can be used in the aftermath of disasters and emergencies, to ensure continuous essential primary healthcare services. It can also be used an as an advanced medical post in the incident of a mass casualty situation, and as a surge capacity unit in the event of infectious disease outbreaks, epidemic and pandemic, like the one we are now currently facing,” she said.
For her part, Desiree Lewis Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Human Services revealed that government had been working to acquire a field hospital for almost 10 years.
“When we were planning for Ebola, at the time I was PS in the Ministry of Health, and we were trying to get a structure of this nature…and today it is a realization,” she said.
Lewis declared that estimates were being sought for similar facilities for North Caicos, Middle Caicos and South Caicos, albeit those would be what she referred to as ‘step-down facilities’.
“We have to ensure that our people are adequately cared for and that the resources and infrastructure are in place to do so…that is the only way we are able to carry out our ultimate goal, which ensuring that persons receive a high level of care and that the resources are in place, and that we are financially stable in order to do so,” Lewis said.
Inside the facility
For his part, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Human Services noted that making the facility a reality was his government’s way of ticking the box in providing higher quality healthcare for its people, whether in a time of natural disaster or a pandemic.
“I said this in cabinet some time ago, that we need to let the world know that Turks and Caicos has grown up and that we need to move away from the days when we are always looking to others to provide us support.
“We need to show that we can stand on our own. This is a sign to say that we are now building capacity to take care of our people in normal times and in times of disaster,” Saunders said, noting that disasters will come, and so we need to be prepared.
Saunders assured that his government would make sure that similar facilities would be placed on each island within the Turks and Caicos.
For her part, Deputy Premier Her Excellency Anya Williams pointed out that the Turks and Caicos Islands, for the most part, has been able to preserve lives in times of natural disaster. She believes that the acquisition of field hospitals would bolster such effort.
“This hospital today will improve our capacity to be prepared should there be a disaster. We hope that it would not have to be used …we hope that we have seen the back of the pandemic here in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and that we are turning a new leaf. But it is great to know that should there be an issue, should we have to have the use of a field hospital… that we have one,” she said.
Deputy Governor Anya WIlliams
Governor Nigel Dakin
Hon. E. Jay Saunders, Deputy Premier & Minister of Health
In the meantime, Governor His Excellency Nigel Dakin heaped praised on the Director Higgs for her leadership in landing the unit.
“Certainly, Sharlene Higgs is a champion for this, and we all thank you for this,” he declared, adding that the acquisition of the field hospital, coupled with the recently installed TCI Regiment would enable the country to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic much stronger.
“In front of us are two images on how we are going to come out of the pandemic stronger than when we went into it, and only a few countries or territories can say that. First, it is this hospital, where Sharlene got her way, because there was no way that we could say no to this during the pandemic.
“Secondly, it was set-up by the regiment which was founded during this pandemic,” he said, noting that during the Downtown Ballpark event, other regiment members were on North Caicos identifying sites for the possible erection of a future field hospital if and when needed.
Following the ribbon-cutting, a tour was made of the facility.
Sharlene Higgs, Director of Health Disaster, Education & Training
Desiree Lewis, PS, Health and Human Services