The first members of a team of 165 Cuban doctors and health workers unload boxes of medicines and medical material from a plane upon their arrival at Freetown's airport to help the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, on October 2, 2014. AFP PHOTO FLORIAN PLAUCHEUR (Photo credit should read FLORIAN PLAUCHEUR/AFP/Getty Images)

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (Friday 20th March 2020) – Cuban-trained medical doctor and Chairman of the St.Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) Dr. Terrance Drew has refreshed calling on the government to involve a medical team from Cuba in the national effort concerning the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19), in asking that local administration makes good on this week’s advice given to OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) countries.

“I want to call on the government to really accept the OECS advice and get the specialists here. I think we need an infectious disease specialist, we need an intensive care specialist and we need a lung specialist along if we need any epidemiologist on the ground to really help to work to track this virus but I think in those critical areas which is the area that is going to determine whether a lot of people die or survive, I think that is where we need a lot of support.”

Dr. Drew made the appeal on Wednesday this week (18th March 2020) as he continued his calls for St.Kitts-Nevis to reach out to Cuba weeks before this area of advice for Cuba’s assistance came out at a special meeting of the OECS Authority and the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).

According to him: “Had we asked them (Cuba medical personnel) long time ago, I think Cuba could have set up a structure within a week and the population could have become very comforted to know that we have good support on the front line.”

Dr. Drew gave reasoning behind his early calls for the St.Kitts-Nevis government to reach out to Cuba “because our health infrastructure is very fragile…is not built to sustain something like this… because our system and structure is not equipped with the specialists or even the equipment and so forth and necessary training to deal specifically with this breakout, it’s important that we seek help from those who can help us and we see that Cuba is in a position.”

He applauded Cuba’s record of going to countries to assist as he noted that country’s dealing with the Ebola whereby  medical personnel “gained a great deal of  experience being on the front line  with one of the one most infectious diseases known to man…that is the story that is missing when people speak about Ebola.”

Dr. Drew recalled that in a recent visit to Germany in February this year during the early talks of the coronavirus, he saw the plans that they were putting in place as he visited hospitals and institutions “and quickly recognized that  St.Kitts and Nevis lack the resources both human resource and financial, and even in terms of equipment and so forth to really deal with this virus if it were to hit our shores but moreover that the tourism  industry -which this is the season for it- will be significantly impacted and as a result will be affected both with respect to our health and financially and everything else that would spin-off from that so this is serious serious business here.” 

A press release issued this week has informed that a Special Meeting of the OECS Authority and the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) was held virtually on March 15th 2020.

Reportedly, the meeting was called by Chairman of the Monetary Council and Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. Keith Mitchell, to discuss the COVID-19 situation and its impact on the OECS.

St.Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris was listed among those present for that session.

Specifically relating to Dr. Drew’s comments, under the section of CAPACITY BUILDING, the press statement reads as follow: “The OECS Commission has formally requested two (2) Infectious Disease Control Experts from Cuba. These experts will be deployed to train frontline immigration and health officials.

In the short term, the Meeting recommended that eligible member countries seek assistance from Cuba with respect to doctors and nurses to supplement national capacity. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has already requested a team of (3) three doctors and (12) twelve nurses with expertise in infectious disease management from Cuba to supplement their national capacity.

In the medium term, the ECCU and the OECS must strengthen its capacity as it pertains to national health security, biosecurity and food security. Areas of focus ought to include human resources, medical and other infrastructure, to deal with the lingering effects of COVID-19 and future threats.”