BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (Friday 15th October 2021)- The two 40-bed capacity field hospitals donated by the United States government to the Federation of St.Kitts and Nevis-one for each island- have the flexibility to be moved around to different community areas.

Such was highlighted by Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, while speaking at a handover ceremony held on Wednesday 13th October 2021 at the Warner Park Cricket Stadium, who said such recent investments is part of the government’s “life first strategy” during the COVID-19 pandemic in strengthening the health system.

As understood, the field hospital will be deployed at the Joseph N. France Hospital in St.Kitts.

Along with those hospitals, the US government has also donated two vans and technology equipment to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as well as a van and forklift for the Nevis Disaster Management Department (NDMD), altogether at an estimated cost of almost $1.5 million.

According to PM Harris, the field hospital “will add to our bed capacity, boosting our ability to fight this deadly virus. It is of note that this health facility provides a negative pressure facility to isolate COVID-19 patients thus conferring another crucial health capability. It is our hope that such a facility will have a positive impact relative to stemming the spread and managing persons with COVID-19.”

“In St.Kitts and Nevis, we have certainly learnt the importance of early planning and preparation. This field hospital will help us to prepare and put us in a much stronger position if the need arises to address any disaster, and we usually contemplate only hurricanes because we are prone but I want to make it public that in this world there are multiple disasters and hazards of consequence to all of us and of which we must be mindful, and of course, we want to make the [point] further that this will help to strengthen our health response during the pandemic. Throughout this pandemic since 2020, we have adopted a life first strategy,” he noted.

“…These investments are part of the build out of the life first strategy  that we have been advocating and present further continuing efforts to strengthen the health system in St.Kitts and Nevis,” PM Harris commented.

He continued: “The government will continue to do all within its power to prevent the overwhelming of our health system regardless of the threat posed. Yes, historically field hospitals have played a major role in reducing human losses during disasters, wars and pandemics. Truth be told, we are in a… type of war against COVID-19 and the COVID-19 pandemic still remains an existential threat to our lives….and cohesiveness in our world. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has reaped havoc and has placed a devastating toll on our communities, and indeed on our world.”

He pointed out that while a field hospital is a new concept in St.Kitts-Nevis, they have been around for a very long time.

 “A field hospital is not new. Certainly it is new to us here in St.Kitts and Nevis but the concept is not new; they have been around for a very long time. Generally, they are considered temporary hospitals where emergency health services are provided… usually persons injured through natural disasters-such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, wars, pandemic-you name them- they have been widely used around the world [and] also in the fight against COVID-19 and to mitigate most importantly the undermining of the health system.”

Additionally, he talked about the mobility of the field hospital.

“Our people on the ground have had the necessary training to set up and dismantle this hospital. We note that this hospital can be moved to any part of the Federation as the need arises so we have mobility …You have the ability to respond …and we only have to reflect back to the volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent to recognize that particular regions of a country can become sufficiently compromised that there can be no health delivery…”

He went on to talk about the benefit of the flexibility of moving the field hospital saying “that flexibility becomes a powerful [detail] in ensuring that we can deliver health care where it is most needed.

PM Harris pointed to the “dramatic use” of field hospitals in India during the pandemic when the medical system there was basically “falling apart.”

A look at the inside of the 40-bed capacity field hospital donated by the US government to St.Kitts-Nevis (Spokesman Snap)

“Results have shown that their use in at least one state of India led to fifty per cent reduction in the death counts so they significantly help in bringing relief to the health system in preventing the health system or health practitioners from having to make the difficult call (of) who will get service today and who will have to wait, and in some sense who will live and who will die. That is the challenge when the health systems are overwhelmed and undermined…,” he added.