February 13, 20051879Views

 (Caption: Participants in the PAHO Course tour the new Peebles Hospital in the British Virgin Islands.)

Health professionals,
engineers, architects and disaster managers from several Caribbean countries
have joined their colleagues in the British Virgin Islands this week to discuss
Smart Hospitals, which are facilities that combine disaster resilience and
environmental friendliness to better serve patients and provide improved
working conditions for health care workers.

They are attending a course
organised by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and funded by United
Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID) which seeks to create a cadre
of champions to propel the SMART Hospitals initiative undertaken by the PAHO
since 2011.

Speaking at the opening
ceremony of the course, PAHO’s Regional Adviser on Disaster Response, Dr. Dana Van
Alphen said two demonstrations projects have already been completed in St.
Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Kitts and Nevis and it is envisaged that
participants will become champions of smart facilities.

Dr. Van Alphen said it is
PAHO’s desire that “all new hospitals being built in the Caribbean will include
safety and environmentally friendly measures to ensure sustained and cost
efficient operations.” She said it is incumbent upon national authorities to
make smart decisions as to when it becomes “economically worthwhile to reduce
the energy consumption and increase the safety of health facilities.”

The PAHO official had high
praise for the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) which she described as
being instrumental in implementing the project and in promoting the initiative
through its adaptation of the measures for the creation of Smart Schools and
eventually Smart Communities in the BVI.

The Ministry of Health and
Social Development, which is the PAHO focal point, also supported the
initiative and helped to facilitate the course here this week. In his remarks
on behalf of the Minister, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Irad Potter affirmed that
the Ministry remains keenly interested in health disaster management as well as
safe health facilities and smart hospitals and communities.

Like Dr. Van Alphen, the
Chief Medical Officer expressed the hope that participants will become
advocates of smart hospitals. He noted that while significant gains have been
made through the project spearheaded by PAHO, vulnerabilities still exists and
the focus must remain on building safer and smarter health facilities to mirror
the expectations of people who expect hospitals to be structurally safe and
sound and more environmentally friendly.

Dr. Potter also expressed
concern about the continued dependence on fossil fuels and the resulting impact
on energy bills. “While we accept that our hospitals in particular add a lot to
greenhouse emissions, we accept that there are things that can be done to
minimise this and therefore I personally expect that your presence here
demonstrates your commitment and that we can eagerly await initiatives in all our
territories and countries, leading to smarter hospitals and eventually smart
communities and smart territories.”

As part of the four-day
course, participants had an extensive tour of the new Peebles Hospital on
Wednesday, led by Associate Director of Infrastructure at the BVI Health
Services Authority, Mr. Allen Penn.

Dr. Van Alphen said the
visit inspired the participants on the possibilities that modern technology can
offer.  “I was very impressed with the
level of safety details included in the new hospital and the thought that went
into the design and construction of the hospital to make it functional and user
friendly. There are some additional components that can be added to make the
facility green and it appears that these discussions are already taking place,”
Dr. Van Alphen noted.

On Thursday, the
participants viewed a video which will serve as a teaching tool for PAHO and
which the DDM was instrumental in producing. Participants also visited Cooper Island to gain a full appreciation for the use of renewable energy and
other conservation techniques.