86 from 20 agencies complete Mass Casualty Management workshop -Minister Harmon says preparation key to mitigating effects

Georgetown, Guyana – (February 15, 2018)  As Government moves to strengthen Mass Casualty Management and Disaster response systems, the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), the Ministry of Public Health and the Canadian High Commission in Guyana, yesterday, concluded a one-week Mass Casualty Management (MCM) and Incident Command Systems (ICS) workshop, with 86 participants from 20 organisations, each of whom is now internationally accredited in mass gatherings management techniques. Forty-two of the participants completed the ICS and 39 the MCMbetween February 5-7, 2018 and February 8-14, respectively. Additionally, five instructors completed their MCM evaluation.

In his feature address to the participants at a closing ceremony, which was held at Herdmanston Lodge, Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, who has responsibility for the CDC and disaster risk management, said that for a small nation with limited resources like Guyana, planning is key.

“There is no doubt of this Government’s commitment to building resilience to disaster risks for all Guyanese. We have worked and will continue to strive to ensure that we are better prepared and able to deal with the increased risks expected from climate change and manmade hazards. Disaster Risk Management is everyone’s business, and we intend to do all that we can to create a better, safer Guyana. I wish to assure you that the Government of Guyana will continue to invest in the development of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in Guyana. We will never be caught in a situation where we do not have a plan. We must plan for all eventualities. It is only by planning and preparing that we will be in a position where we can respond positively. We have limited resources and if we are to have optimum use of those resources, we have to plan careful and apply the resources we have in a practical and efficient way,” he said.

Minister Harmon noted that MCM and ICS systems are integral in the preservation of public safety and security during emergencies and disasters, as they facilitate the provision of prompt medical response and victim care, effective and efficient resource mobilisation and management, and strengthened inter-agency coordination during Mass Casualty Incidents (MCI). Noting that the skills gained are valuable particularly to a country like Guyana, Minister Harmon said that the Government will ensure that the Civil Defence Mechanism is strengthened.

“The knowledge and skill sets you have attained during these training sessions are valuable assets to a Government and [the people of Guyana]. The Government of Guyana’s acceptance of and commitment to building the country’s disaster response capacity is demonstrated in the increased subventions to the CDC from $1M per quarter in 2015 to an excess of $90M per year in 2018. The Government, through the CDC is taking action to further strengthen our Civil Defence Mechanism,” he said.  In this regard, the development and implementation of the Mass Casualty Management System and the 24 Hour National Emergency Monitoring System (NEMS) in 2016 have already been completed.

Through the implementation of the MCM system, Minister Harmon said that emergency responders were able to provide immediate and advanced medical care to in excess of 150 persons at various national events held at Durban Park for the period May 2016 to May 2017. At the Jubilee celebrations held in May 2016, the system provided medical care to 69 persons.

“Through this system we were not only able to provide appropriate medical care, but were also able to effectively manage the flow of patients to the Emergency Department of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), thereby, averting a surge situation at the GPHC and saving lives. Given these positive results, it is imperative that mass casualty management systems are implemented at all mass gatherings, both at the national and regional levels.  Response capacity is not only being built at the national level but we are engaging the Regional Democratic Councils through the Regional Disaster Risk Management Systems that are being institutionalised in the administrative regions to ensure that persons are similarly trained and Mass Casualty and Incident Command Systems are integrated into the regional mechanism,” he said.

Acting Director General of the CDC, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, in his remarks, said that Guyana, like any other country, is vulnerable to the impacts of natural and manmade hazards. Noting that the country and the Caribbean is facing the phenomenon of climate change and its influence on the growing occurrences of extreme and unpredictable weather patterns, the Director General said that the country must work to  enhance its collective capacity to be able to provide effective response to emergencies and disasters at all levels.

“We sought to address this issue through the strengthening of our institutional capacity. In doing so, it was recognised that collaboration with the CDC and all critical stakeholders was important to complete such a task. These two courses provided the participants with the model tools for command, Control, Prioritisations and Coordination of response to manmade and natural disasters. The training also provided the participants with the skills and knowledge to coordinate the efforts of agencies as they work toward the common goal of stabilising incidents and protecting life, property and the environment,” he said.

Many of the participants, he said, will be deployed over the Mashramani period in accordance with the Mass Casualty Management and Evacuation Plans that were developed by the CDC and its partners for mass gatherings.

PAHO/ WHO Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, in his brief remarks, said that the organisation recognises Government’s commitment to disaster risk management and MSM, as he noted that the body stands ready to lend its support for capacity building initiatives such as these.

“This collaboration certainly augers well for our prepositioning of preparedness and indication of Government’s commitment to the strengthening of the capacity to deal with mass casualty events. We believe that these courses will have a direct impact on enhancing the technical capacity of our professionals to react effectively to mass casualty events. These put us at an advantage because these esteemed professionals can now plan, organise and execute trainings in all of the administrative regions in Guyana. It is important to develop our human capacity to confront any mass casualty that we may face and PAHO will work with you,” he said.

Ms. Lilian Chatterjee, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, in her remarks said that Canada has been a partner to the Caribbean and Guyana in providing support for disaster response and risk management and will continue to do so. “I must commend the organisers for arranging this particularly at a time when we here in the Caribbean are dealing with the effects with climate change. The Caribbean is seen as one of the most exposed regions to natural disasters. Canada remains committed to helping the Caribbean rebuild better and stronger for the future. We are working to improve the capacities of countries in the response to natural disasters and to reduce their impact on the people,” she said.

Dr. Karen Boyle, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Public Health, who offered remarks on behalf of Minister within the Ministry, Dr. Karen Cummings, said that this workshop highlights the importance that is being placed on disaster preparedness by the responsible agencies. “This programme is important for the ongoing efforts by all concerned stakeholders to enhance the resiliency of our nation. The invaluable support provided by PAHO/ WHO must be commended.  There is no substitute for preparation. The importance of public health strategies and the maximising of the benefits for the community as a whole cannot be underestimated. Emergency plans must be well designed and properly tested. The MOPH recognises that it will have a critical role to play in any disaster occurrence and therefore welcomes any opportunity to enhance training and capacity,” she said.

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