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On International Women’s Day, Gibraltar salutes women in frontline healthcare

Gibraltar is marking International Women’s Day by saluting the efforts of local women on the front line of Gibraltar’s Covid-19 response, including those who held senior roles in all aspects of the Rock’s vaccination programme, Operation Freedom.

Globally, women comprise over 75% of the health and care workforce, making them indispensable contributors to the delivery of health and care services.

In Gibraltar, this figure is over 70%.

Consequently, their role has become supremely vital at this time of a global pandemic, throughout the world and not least in Gibraltar.

The vaccination programme in particular has been praised not just for the care and dedication of its staff, but for its speed and efficiency too, with the vast majority of the population now close to being fully vaccinated.

Throughout the programme, women have held senior positions to ensure it was smoothly run, from administration to logistics and the frontline clinical operation.

The representation of women is seen throughout the entire process, from the midnight strategic planning meetings to establish numerous vaccination centres within days, to the 4:30am starts when the pharmacists including Melanie Gordon begin to prepare the vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from the freezer, to the final stages of inoculation, where most nurses working long shifts have been women.

“Globally, we are hearing success stories of women at the lead of Covid-19 responses producing the best results,” said Samantha Sacramento, the Minister for Health, who has led the operation and holds responsibility for the vaccine rollout.

“Gibraltar is one of them.”

“Our vaccine programme is receiving praise both locally and internationally for its overall efficiency, which is a direct result of the hours of diligent strategic planning and the meticulousness of its operational and clinical delivery.”

“Women have been at the helm at every level, and it is important that we recognise that.”

As Minister for Civil Contingencies too, Ms Sacramento has directed the vaccination programme at strategic, operational and logistical levels.

Director of Nursing Services, Sandie Gracia, was tasked to present and deliver the vaccine programme for Gibraltar at the beginning of January.

She leads the vaccine rollout across all sectors and is a key player behind the strategic and operational planning of Operation Freedom.

The inoculation of residents of Elderly Residential Services was top priority, and for infection control purposes had its own strategy which was prepared by ERS Care Manager SusanVallejo who was also in charge of its overall implementation.

The vaccination programme was rolled out across all ERS sites including Mount Alvernia, John Mackintosh Home, Hillsides, Bellavista, Calpe and Cochrane Wards and the inoculation at all these sites was led by Jolyn Gonzalez, ERS Nursing Coordinator at Bella Vista.

The immediate protection of the most vulnerable members of our community was the central point of Gibraltar’s strategy to safely unlock the Rock.

At the ICC, a team of women oversee the administration of the vaccine to members of the public.

The operational challenges of the vaccine programme have been a mammoth task, which also saw Suyenne Catania, Senior Product Manager at the Gibraltar Tourist Board, redeployed to manage the public call centre.

Primary Care Manager, Rose Suissa, was responsible for leading the transformation of the former Primary Care Centre into the public vaccination centre, which is run with military-like efficiency.

Senior Clinical Lead, Suzanne Romero, is in charge of all clinical aspects from the vaccine preparation room to the final inoculations.

The efficiency of the programme and the extraction of six doses from each vial with minimal wastage is one of the greatest success stories of Operation Freedom.

The frontline vaccination unit at St Bernard’s Hospital was led by Clinical Nurse Manager Fiona McCoubrey and administered by Toni Sanderson.

THE 70%

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day and in-keeping with the United Nations theme, ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World,’ the Government of Gibraltar also highlighted the crucial role of women in health and care during the Covid crisis.

It is almost a year now since Gibraltar entered its first lockdown due to the Covid crisis.

“In all that time and, at times, in the most challenging of circumstances, hundreds of women in the health and care sectors locally have demonstrated a great sense of professionalism as well as civic duty and responsibility by working to protect the most vulnerable in our community and by working to protect Gibraltar as a whole,” the government said.

“In their dedication and service to the community they have shown great courage and resilience.”

“Women in the health and care sectors have demonstrated how essential they are.”

“Women in Gibraltar have contributed to and indeed have often led many Covid-related initiatives.”

Over the last year, much has been achieved, women have fronted teams and guided the co-ordinated action needed to tackle the pandemic and overcome the challenges.

These include not only running the existing services but also the unprecedented setting up of many new ones that tackling Covid required such as the Nightingale Hospital, 111 service, Contact Tracing Bureau, Public Health Laboratory and the drive through facility, to name but a few.

On International Women’s Day, in honour of the women in the front line in the field of health and care during Covid-19, the GHA will pay tribute to them by representing its female staff on its Social Media platform.

“As Minister for Equality, I have always been keen to mark International Women’s Day,” Ms Sacramento said.

“It is an opportunity not only to highlight the issues affecting women but to celebrate and recognize the achievements of women.”

“This International Women’s Day, and given the ever present backdrop of Covid-19 over the last 12 months, I felt it was particularly fitting to pay tribute to the extraordinary work carried out by the hundreds of women in the health and care sectors.”

“As Minister for Health and Care and as Minister with responsibility for Civil Contingencies I have repeatedly witnessed first-hand the truly incredible efforts of women at the forefront in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.”

“I have nothing but admiration, respect and a huge sense of gratitude for all their endeavours in working to eradicate the virus from our community.”

“To all the women in the frontline during Covid-19, I thank you.”

“Now more than ever before, International Women’s Day is a timely reminder of both the invaluable contributions of women to our community and how when women take their rightful place in society we all do better.”

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