As part of the strategy to respond to Covid-19 outbreak in Dominica, a national contact tracing and sampling committee has been established in the Primary Healthcare Services Division of the Ministry of Health, Wellness and New Health Investment.
“The Committee is being spearheaded by myself, the Director and comprises of the Permanent Secretary of Tourism, the Chief Dental Officer, Coordinator for National HIV/AIDS Response Unit and our two senior community health nurses,” Director for Primary Healthcare Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Laura Esprit said at a news conference recently. “There is one team leader assigned per region who is reporting directly to the Director of Primary Healthcare Services.”
Dr. Esprit said each district has a smaller team comprising the District Medical Officer, the Senior Community Health Nurse, a Community Health Nurse, other nurses and a driver.
“These persons are then responsible for contact tracing, follow-up and surveillance,” she explained.
She said the committee has been sub-divided into two teams: an administrative leg and a mobile sampling field team.
The administrative team is responsible for outgoing patient investigation and care and the mobile sampling field team provides support to “surge capacity.”
“This means that this team is deployed to the relevant district or communities whenever it becomes necessary,” Dr. Esprit indicated. “This enables prompt sampling of all suspects over a shorter period of time.”
She added, “This team is also critical in identifying further contacts.”
The mobile sampling field team comprises a medical doctor, a family nurse practitioner and a registered nurse trained in infection control who will be responsible for staff welfare.
She noted that for ease of administration Primary Healthcare Services has always been subdivided into two administrative regions.
Region 1 comprises the districts of Roseau, Grandbay and St Joseph, while Region includes Portsmouth, Marigot, Castle Bruce and Laplaine.
Dr. Esprit stated that the district administration teams are responsible for providing data on probable or suspected clients, tracking the number of clients identified and sampled and tracking availability of supplies to name a few.
She explained that once a patient is contacted and identified the team is required to take a specimen from each contact, “that is where the swabbing comes in.”
“The samples are then transported to the medical lab ensuring that protocols for transportation of infectious material are maintained,” Dr. Esprit said. “Results are available within 24 to 48 hours.”
The Primary Health Care Director urged the public to cooperate with the officials of the Ministry of Health and to maintain home quarantine when asked to do so.
“We have major challenges, in that many persons have not heeded the instructions of social distancing and self-quarantine and have not taken these recommendations seriously,” Dr. Esprit remarked, pointing out that while the number of patients is in the minority in Dominica, there is a potential for exponential spread and transmission of the disease to most of the population.
“Bear in mind that there are very vulnerable people in our communities who will be negatively impacted and may even die from this highly contagious disease,” Dr. Esprit warned.