Statia COVID-19 testing operational by mid-July

Statia COVID-19 testing operational by mid-July

Dr. Sharda Baboe 

  1. EUSTATIUS--The St. Eustatius Public Health Department and the Netherlands Institute of Public Health and the Environment RIVM are working on making it possible to carry out COVID-19 testing locally. The anticipated timeframe for having the testing capability operational is mid-July.

However, this timeframe is dependent on different factors, as the already-purchased machine and test materials have to be transported to Statia. Also, various types of medical equipment have to be installed in the laboratory at Queen Beatrix Medical Centre (QMBC), where the tests will be carried out.

Information and communications technology will also have to be installed in cooperation with St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS).

Dr. Sharda Baboe said the Public Health Department has been in discussions with the RIVM and public health institutions in Statia and Saba about the possibilities to have COVID-19 tests carried out locally.

Currently, Saba and Statia depend on other islands, such as St. Maarten, for COVID-19 testing. With regular flights between the islands unavailable it is difficult to have the test results in a timely fashion, and that is why the smaller islands have been given the capability to test for COVID-19 locally. The testing will be carried out under the supervision of a microbiologist.

“We are glad that the tests will be available to us soon on the island, which is an upgrade to our diagnostic capacity. Up to now, we would get results after a few days. Soon it will be possible to have the results the same day,” depending on the number of suspected coronavirus cases, as there is a limit to how many persons can be tested in one day.

With a test duration being between two and three hours it will be possible to carry out about 20 tests per day, said Baboe. This will help eliminate “uncertainty and anxiety” within the community, Baboe said. “This is a good thing, because if you are living with uncertainty and anxiety this creates distress which can cause any number of medical issues.”

Local testing and the “rapid” availability of test results also makes it possible to take the necessary precautions for patients, for those who have been in close contact with the patient, and for support staff, healthcare workers and everyone involved, in a timely manner.

A positive test result means that medical professionals will have to wear full personal protective equipment when in contact with the patient.

“Faster results will enable adequate decision-making by the doctor as to if the patient needs to be admitted as well as where,” Dr. Baboe said. Persons with a positive test result will be admitted to the Hospitainer, which is specifically reserved for COVID-19 patients. Patients with another type of infectious disease will be admitted to QBMC.

If everything goes according to plan, everything should be operational by mid-July. Baboe said that even if the equipment is installed before mid-July, experts will still have to do a test run, during which test results will be double-checked in St. Maarten.

Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis said the public entity St. Eustatius is making on-island testing possible even though the island is currently COVID-19-free. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging around the world, and there are also cases on some neighbouring islands.

“The moment we start reopening the island, whether it is because we have essential workers coming, medical referrals, stranded Statians returning, or students who want to return to the island on vacation, every contact with the outside world is an opportunity for contamination. That is why as a public entity we are working together with the Public Health Department, Health Insurance office ZVK, QBMC, et cetera, … to remain vigilant as stakeholders, but also as a community,” Francis said.

The Daily Herald

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