(from left to right) PAHO representatives Dr. Rufus Ewing, and Dr. Karen Polsyn, PAHO country representative, Ms. Katrina Smith, Dr. Dwain Archibald, Dr. Leroy Richardson and Commissioner of Corrections Terrance James.

A group comprising local doctors and experts from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) facilitated a sensitization session with the residents of Her Majesty’s Prison recently.

Dr. Dwain Archibald, from the St. Kitts and Nevis Medical and Dental Association, and PAHO representatives Dr. Karen Polsyn and Dr. Rufus Ewing made presentations on the Coronavirus disease, then fielded questions afterwards. Also present were PAHO country representative, Ms. Katrina Smith, and Dr. Leroy Richardson as the doctor assigned to the prison.

Dr. Polsyn explained that there were no confirmed cases in St. Kitts and Nevis at the moment, and the general expectation is that if a case is found locally, then the likelihood was that it was brought into the country by someone.

“And for it to spread, that person would have to have been in close contact with other people while the person is showing symptoms — coughing and sneezing — and if droplets from that person gets on the persons within a one meter [or] a three-foot range of that person…those are the persons who would have been looked at as possibly beginning to show symptoms at that point [and] as being suspected of having COVID-19,” Dr. Polsyn said.

The Coronavirus Disease is also called COVID-19, the “19” referring to 2019, when it was first found.

In the event a prisoner becomes ill, then that person would be removed from the prison and placed in quarantine.  Someone who had tested positive for the disease would only be released from isolation or quarantine, if they had two negative tests 24 hours apart said her colleague, Dr. Ewing. During the question and answer segment, he allayed the concerns of the residents about their wellbeing.

“When it comes to the prison, yes you are vulnerable, but I can tell you right now, in St. Kitts and Nevis, seeing as you don’t have [the] disease in St. Kitts and Nevis, the prison is probably the safest place to be,” according to Dr. Ewing.

Dr. Archibald stressed the importance of staying hydrated and boosting one’s immune system as some of the ways persons could protect themselves. He also assured the men and women of the prison that the Ministry of Health had a plan in place to catch and contain cases early should the situation present itself.

“Now, God forbid, a case comes in. Dr. Richardson would be notified, and now we have a plan set where we take that person — we examine, we asses, we test — and if you have the COVID we isolate you and treat you accordingly so we will prevent it from spreading,” said Dr. Archibald.

The PAHO representatives have been travelling throughout the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and have been providing support, sharing information, as well as taking note of the issues in each state.  PAHO experts are working with ministries of health in the Americas to prepare their countries’ health services to handle increased patient flows and to strengthen infection prevention and control. Additionally, officials from the Ministry of Health and representatives from the Medical and Dental Association have been making presentations to various groups and on different platforms about precautionary measures.