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Editor’s note:This article was published in the Editorial section of the Chronicle Newspaper on July 24,2009.

The Ministry of Health and other relevant authorities should move quickly to upgrade the systems, facilities and personnel available to deal with medical emergencies in rural communities and remote areas.

This month, a young cadet was pronounced dead at the Princess Margaret Hospital after being unable to get emergency medical treatment for several hours when he became seriously ill at a camp in the Castle Bruce area. Persons trying to assist him were reportedly unable to reach key medical personnel at the district health centre and there was no ambulance to transport the stricken cadet to hospital.

This is not an isolated case. A few weeks ago, The Chronicle reported an incident in the same area in which a desperately ill woman nearly died when there was no ambulance to rush her for treatment when a medical emergency arose. In that case also, it was not possible to get appropriate medical treatment for the ailing woman in her rural community or its immediate environs.

These incidents and others make it quite clear that many persons who suddenly get ill or injured in the far-flung regions of Dominica could find themselves in a most dire predicament. Indeed, life-threatening medical emergencies may arise in places where medical help is several hours away and there is no ambulance. In such situations, a multitude of risks and negative consequences inevitably arise.

As a developing nation with a vulnerable economy, Dominica does not have the capacity to put ideal systems, facilities and personnel in place for medical emergencies in remote places. But health officials in Dominica can definitely examine existing medical facilities to see if they are functioning as expected and take steps to upgrade these in the interest of providing the best service possible.

Since Dominica is the nature isle of the Caribbean, its eco-tourism sites are powerful magnets for adventurers from all parts of the world. However, these visitors may arrive here with underlying medical complaints that predispose them to health risks in Dominica’s rugged hinterland. Therefore, how the nation deals with medical emergencies involving sickness or injuries in remote areas with challenging terrain is an important consideration in the development of the island’s tourism product.

Dominica is a mountainous, volcanic island that is vulnerable to landslides and flash floods, especially in rural and remote areas. If the island intends to accommodate an ever-increasing number of visitors to eco-tourism sites found in remote areas without easy access by road or waterway, then build the capacity to meet their health, safety and medical emergency needs.

In any case, local residents of rural and remote areas deserve the best medical systems and facilities that the nation can provide with the resources at its disposal. Unfortunately, it seems that the island is not doing as well as it should in this area, even if current economic constraints are taken into account.

The time is ripe for forward-thinking health authorities to move urgently to examine and upgrade Dominica’s capacity to deal with medical emergencies in country communities and interior locations.

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