Twelve mental health specialists from Trinidad and Tobago are to travel to Dominica to assist the psychiatric team on the island in helping the population, which officials say remains in a state of shock following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
Consultant psychiatrist at Dominica’s Ministry of Health, Dr. Griffin Benjamin, told a news conference in Roseau yesterday that the government “had accepted an offer from 12 mental health specialists, we call them the trauma specialist team from Trinidad and Tobago, who have offered to join us to help in response to this disaster.”
Among those who will need psychological help, he said, were medical personnel who had been working round the clock since the hurricane struck.
Benjamin said the governments of Dominica and T&T were working to gets the 12 experts to Dominica. He said after Tropical Storm Erica, eight of the same 12-member team had also gone to Dominica and “they were of tremendous value to the Dominican population.”
Benjamin said while many people have been coming to terms with the destruction and the loss of life, “we predict it will get worse before it gets better” and it was in that light they had accepted the offer from the Trinidad trauma team.
Ten days after the hurricane, Benjamin said “many of us are confused and shocked by the damage we witnessed. We just do not know where to start or to begin the process of recovering our lives.”
He warned that in the coming days a “sense of despair and hopelessness will creep in,” but he urged Dominicans not to allow “negative feelings” to overcome them.
“Let us guard our minds against them, our country will bounce back and we will overcome. We have done it before and will do it again,” he said.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Johnson said the real heroes in the hurricane were the medical staff at hospitals who “never stopped working taking care of patients..”
“There was staff when roofs were flying from the hospital, there was staff moving patients from one area to the other, some of the staff never stopped working from Sunday night to today,” Johnson said.
Through the “heroic efforts of those staff doctors, nurses, pharmacists, cleaners, wardsmaids and others,” he said “not a single patient at the Princess Margaret Hospital at the time of the Hurricane Maria lost their lives.”
Medical director at the hospital, Dr Ruby Blanc, said days after the hurricane 17 patients were evacuated to the Dominican Republic and two to Martinique. Their evacuations were necessary because of the severity of their injuries and medical condition, she said.
Meantime, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skeritt said the government will be launching “a cash for work programme, where people across the country will be engaged in clearing and rebuilding.” Those people “will be paid on a weekly basis for their work. The intention is to engage everybody.”
Contacted yesterday, neither Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh nor Secretary of the Psychiatrists Association of T&T Varma Deyalsingh could shed any light on the mental health team.