Madam Speaker, I am pleased to share with this Honourable House the successes of the recently concluded 36th OECS/PPS Policy Board Meeting and 9th OECS Council of Ministers: Health held in the Virgin Islands under my Chairmanship.

OECS Health Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Chief Medical Officers and our Regional Development Partners were welcomed to the Territory with a Welcome Ceremony and Reception on 9th October which allowed us to showcase some BVI Love to our delegates. The highlight of the Ceremony was a very moving feature address by Cancer Awareness Advocate, Dr. Arliene T. Penn as she shared her personal experience with Cervical Cancer and shared pointers to live healthier lifestyles, thus preventing and mitigating non-communicable diseases.

The 36th OECS Pooled Procurement Services Board Meeting focused on collaboration throughout the region to increase purchasing power of pharmaceuticals and standardizing equipment. This not only makes pharmaceuticals affordable, it also allows us to share supplies, due to standardized equipment throughout the region.

This was followed by the 9th OECS Council of Ministers: Health which convened under the theme “Improving Lives through Preventive Health Care: An Evidence-Based Approach”. Overall, discussions at the meeting were framed by the need to improve primary healthcare, to focus on the alarming increase of non-communicable diseases across OECS Member States, and the impact of climate change and its debilitating effects on health systems brought about by the resurgence of diseases.

Madam Speaker, a key element of the meeting was the engagement of youth in critical health related policy dialogue. The Council invited Youth Representative Ms. Bria Smith to join the discussions, and she spoke eloquently on health priorities relevant to youth, with a focus on mental health and the taboo surrounding discussions on that condition. Subsequently, the Council supported the call for greater inclusion and engagement of youth in initiatives and forums like the Council of Ministers, and acknowledged the need to bridge the generational gap around discussions on mental health challenges.

Some notable agreements made at the meeting are as follows:

  • We agreed to review and accelerate the approach to strengthen capacity at the regional level through 6-month exchanges/rotations of medical practitioners.
  • We agreed to mainstream Mental Health Awareness/Literacy to Youth from an earlier age and to render support to them in identifying signs and symptoms of the condition.
  • We agreed to mobilize resources to complete the existing OECS Caribbean Association of Oncology and Hematology (CAOH) Screening Guidelines.
  • We agreed that a special meeting of Ministers for Health be convened with Guadeloupe and Martinique for consideration of mission visits to these countries for further discussions on the suite of services and opportunities for further cooperation that are being offered to the OECS region.

The meeting concluded with a site visit to the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital which left the delegates overwhelmingly impressed and ready to learn best practices from the Virgin Islands.

Madam Speaker, I must commend my team at the Ministry of Health and Social Development and all the stakeholders involved in the planning and organizing, for their tireless work that resulted in the successful execution of these meetings. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed and have certainly left an indelible mark on our visiting delegates.

Madam Speaker, I thank you.

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