State of the Territory | Blood Shortage in Virgin Islands Hospitals: A Critical Challenge Impacting Patient Care

In her bi-weekly column, “State of the Territory,” former Sen. Janelle K. Sarauw delves deeper into issues of concern for V.I. residents. The Virgin Islands, nestled in the Caribbean, boast breathtaking landscapes and a vibrant culture. However, behind this picturesque facade lies a concerning healthcare challenge: a chronic shortage of blood in its hospitals. This scarcity not only jeopardizes patient care but also poses a significant obstacle to the healthcare system’s ability to respond effectively to emergencies. The situation came to the forefront of my attention when a family member fell critically ill and required blood transfusions. What I discovered was a healthcare system grappling with a fundamental deficiency: the absence of readily available blood supplies. Shockingly, Virgin Islands hospitals often find themselves without adequate blood reserves, necessitating the transportation of blood from Puerto Rico, an additional logistical challenge in emergency situations. Delving deeper into the issue, conversations with medical professionals underscored the severity of the problem. While hospitals possess the expertise and technology to save lives, the lack of blood emerges as a critical bottleneck. From elective surgeries to life-saving interventions for gunshot victims, the availability of blood is indispensable for delivering timely and effective care. Regrettably, the scarcity of blood not only compromises patient outcomes but also leads to the cancellation of surgeries and delays in crucial transfusions, exacerbating the already precarious health conditions of patients. The importance of blood cannot be overstated in the realm of healthcare. It serves as a lifeline for individuals battling chronic illnesses, undergoing cancer treatments, or confronting traumatic injuries. Whether it’s whole blood, red cells, platelets, or plasma, each component plays a vital role in sustaining life and promoting recovery. However, the shortage of blood in Virgin Islands hospitals not only undermines the quality of care but also erodes public trust in the healthcare system’s ability to meet the community’s needs. Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach involving stakeholders at various levels. Firstly, there is an urgent need for heightened awareness and advocacy to encourage blood donations within the community. Public education campaigns can dispel myths surrounding blood donation and highlight its life-saving potential. Moreover, collaboration between healthcare institutions and governmental agencies is essential to establish robust blood management systems, ensuring efficient procurement, storage, and distribution of blood supplies. Additionally, exploring partnerships with regional blood banks and implementing innovative strategies for blood collection and utilization can help mitigate the shortage. Furthermore, investing in training programs for healthcare professionals to enhance transfusion practices and optimize blood utilization can maximize the impact of available resources. In conclusion, the shortage of blood in Virgin Islands hospitals represents a pressing public health challenge with far-reaching implications for patient care and healthcare delivery. Addressing this issue demands concerted efforts from all stakeholders to ensure the availability of this precious resource when lives hang in the balance. By confronting this challenge head-on, we can safeguard the health and well-being of individuals in the Virgin Islands and uphold the fundamental principle of access to quality healthcare for all.  

Democrats: Elections Still Responsible for Conducting – and Funding – Primary

The casting of the lots for upcoming primary elections is set for May 31, but with a recent District Court ruling putting the spotlight on inconsistencies in the territory’s elections laws, whether that’s still going to happen as planned is up in the air, as more clarification on the process is needed, Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said Sunday night. The District Court order essentially barred the Board of Elections from deciding how a political party organizes its primary because of overly vague language in the law — but left in place rules mandating a primary election take place in August. How the primary would be organized, candidates chosen, the number of candidates possible, whether there was time to change the law or circumvent the ruling, and if $250,000 of tax money should go to a primary process in the first place, were all questions debated in a more than three-hour legislative hearing last week, where Fawkes said it was not too late to fix the problem by passing new legislation. “No primary election can be conducted by the Office of the Supervisor unless the Legislature address the issue and make any necessary changes to the law,” Fawkes said, during last week’s Senate hearing. “This discussion has been talked about for 10 years. There are laws that need to be specific, like I state, other states are doing primaries, so you need to research and see what we can do to reinforce our law to be more stringent.” In the wake of her testimony, the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands – whose lawsuit against the Board of Elections and the system’s supervisor resulted in the District Court’s opinion – said it plans to run its own primary if the Elections System of the Virgin Islands cannot, according to a letter received by the Source last week. The note on Republican Party letterhead asked Fawkes and the Board of Elections to confirm by last Friday if the candidates chosen in the privately-run primary would appear on the 2024 General Election ballot. The letter, signed by Republican Party in the Virgin Islands Chairman John Yob, was copied to members of the Virgin Islands Legislature. It claimed only candidates selected through the private primary process would be allowed to list themselves as Republicans on the General Election ballot. Meeting virtually on Saturday, the Democratic Party’s Territorial Committee, however, took a different stance, voting to accept recommendations made by an Ad Hoc Committee formed after the ruling came down that the Elections System is still responsible for conducting and funding the primary. What the party will do, according to Democratic State Chair Stedmann Hodge, Jr., is certify the results. The Ad Hoc Committee officially presented its report Saturday, followed by an executive session that Hodge said gave members a chance to take a deeper dive into the “legal issues surrounding the opinion.” The report was shared publicly afterward, with members voting to send an official letter to Fawkes and the Elections System explaining the final decision, which:
  • Recognizes that the territory’s election laws, less than six months prior to an election, cannot be amended;
  • Clarifies that is the party that will certify the election, which Hodge said is consistent with the District Court ruling; and
  • Sets the expectation that the Election System of the Virgin Islands will run the primary as usual and fund it, which Hodge said is consistent with the process used by a majority of other states and territories.
“It is important to note what the case does not say,” the party’s letter to Fawkes and the Elections Board says in reference to the court ruling. “It does not say that the Board of Elections cannot conduct the primary elections of party officials or public officials. It just cannot certify or reject the process or results. The opinion specifically carved out the second sentence of Article 18 Section 232 for its unconstitutionality due to its vagueness, but left the first sentence, ‘Party primary elections shall be held in the Virgin Islands on the first Saturday of August for the purpose of choosing candidates for nomination to public offices to be voted for at the ensuing general election.’” Reached by phone Sunday night, Fawkes said she’ll await the party’s letter, but reiterated that right now, particularly in light of the ruling, the election laws still have to be clarified before a primary is conducted. “I don’t write the law, I carry out the law,” Fawkes said. “And the law right now is contradictory and outdated.”

Mental Health Professionals Hold Public Event

Kids danced with banners streaming and tossed themselves around in a bouncy house Saturday afternoon at the St. Croix Reformed Church, while adults socialized and learned about traditional and holistic mental healthcare.
Kids run and fly banners at St. Croix Reformed Church Saturday. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
“It’s an event to bring together a variety of holistic practitioners from mental health professionals to yoga instructors to massage therapists,” Chloe Farris, the event organizer and founder of Soul Health, Inc., said. In addition to traditional mental health caregivers from the V.I. Health Department and The Village, there were demonstrations by yoga instructor Shera Elvins, breath work by Ray Bratcher, embodied healing by occupational therapist and fire dancer Kiki Mason, and visual arts and dance. “Because everyone doesn’t always heal the same way,” Farris said. The St. Croix Animal Welfare Center brought several puppies because everyone knows hugging a pet helps heal emotional and physical illness.
St. Croix Animal Welfare Center brings puppies for comfort and support. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
Inside the church, surrounded by tables with literature about a wealth of mental health services, a panel of professional providers of various services discussed the barriers to successful psychological health care in the Virgin Islands—in other words, what the profession would look like without the territory’s normal problems.
Treatment options outlined by Rebekah Stone, massage therapist of Sol Awakening. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
Alea Byrd, Island Therapy Solutions therapist, who works at St. Croix Good Hope Country Day School, said patients need easy phone access to make appointments or speak with caregivers. Patients should be able to see a therapist within a week of making an appointment. Zulima Webster, who has a private practice and works at the V.I. Health Department on suicide prevention, said there should be “cleaner referral processes.” Providers, such as MAP, limit who can access services, she added. “Having resources we’re all able to use,” Webster wished. An “open dialog with kids” is what Rheitza Javois wished. She is a social worker with the Village program that works with adolescents with substance abuse issues. She also wants to be able to create safe spaces for children. “Take down stress a level. It’s contagious,” Pastor Michael DeRider said. The other panelists were Brandy Brooks, who works with youth through the Village, and Deana Davis, who also works with young people through Island Therapy. “The panel discussion was a thoughtful dialogue of the barriers to receiving mental health treatment in a timely manner,” Farris said.
Mental Health professionals discussed some of the territory’s shortcomings preventing access to services for all V.I. residents. (Source photo by Susan Ellis)
Families brought chairs and blankets to enjoy a free showing of the Pixar film Inside Out, about a child suffering from depression. Farris said she plans to hold similar monthly events for the public and meetings with caregivers. “So, I would challenge our lawmakers to prioritize the community’s needs with vigor as the people of this beautiful island are deserving of more than what they are presently receiving,” she said.      

Workforce Mentorship Program Seeks to Attract Virgin Islands Science Grads

Kristen Grimes, director of Navigating Home (Source file photo)

The Virgin Islands is embarking on a mentorship program that sponsors hope will lead to home-based careers for new college graduates. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Seas Islands Alliance, is called Navigating Home.

According to the program’s director, the goal of Navigating Home is to identify the most promising graduates and match them with short- or long-term internships based in geosciences. “This program is trying to build capacity in these islands,” said University of the Virgin Islands Assistant Professor Kristin Grimes.

Other U.S. territories — Puerto Rico and Guam — are sponsoring their own versions of the program in hopes of mentoring their most promising students into their local job markets.

Three recently graduated students from UVI’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are the current recipients of workforce fellowship grants. Two of the three say they have now signed up for graduate studies in the school’s marine science program.

All participating students receive mentoring and public engagement and science communications training. They are also eligible for stipends that allow them to travel to science conferences and pursue further professional development.

“The goal is to try and keep the best of the students we have and encourage them to pursue science careers at home,” Grimes said. Grant recipient Chloe Camacho said she’s using her public engagement opportunities to visit ninth- and tenth-graders in their classrooms.

Camacho said she’s happy to engage with students because teaching science is one of her aspirations. “This fellowship allows me to come home to work,” she said.

Larissa Sweeney is using her eight-week fellowship to reconnect with the National Park Service on St. Croix, working on a variety of projects. Sweeney said she completed her undergraduate work in South Florida but came home to the big island every summer to work with the park service.

“I fully ran away, but I came straight back because I really missed it. It was like I used to look at this place as a kid, but now I’m looking at it with the eyes of an adult,” Sweeney said.

Miranda Goad said she was thinking about enrolling in art school but kept feeling a tug to get back into marine science. She is now working with Research Professor Rick Nemeth, who is studying the stoplight parrotfish.

The effects of the ocean environment on sea life are one of several fields that fall under the banner of geoscience. It is also one of the fields that can benefit from having more home-grown scientists contributing to broader knowledge of the world that surrounds them, the director said.

The Buccaneer Resort Wins Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award 2024

The Buccaneer Resort, located on St. Croix, has been recognized in the prestigious Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for 2024. The award honors businesses that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews, securing a place among Tripadvisor’s top 10 percent of listings globally. Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, awards this honor based on genuine feedback from community members who have visited and shared first-hand reviews over a 12-month period. This process makes the Travelers’ Choice Award a valuable and trustworthy indicator of excellence in hospitality and great places to visit, according to the press release. “We are deeply honored and grateful to be recognized among Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice favorites this year. This achievement is a testament to the dedication of our incredible staff and the support of our loyal visitors and reviewers,” said Elizabeth Armstrong, owner of The Buccaneer. “We extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed to our success.” “Congratulations to The Buccaneer on its recognition in Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards for 2024,” said John Boris, chief growth officer at Tripadvisor. “Travelers’ Choice honors businesses that consistently demonstrate a commitment to hospitality excellence. This means you have made such a memorable impact on your visitors that many of them took the time to go online and leave a great review about their experience. People rely on Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice seal to help them navigate the myriad of things to see, eat and do across the globe. We hope this recognition continues to drive business to you in 2024 and beyond.” Check out all the reviews and learn more about The Buccaneer by visiting Tripadvisor online. Stay connected with the latest news and updates by following The Buccaneer on Facebook at @TheBuccaneerStCroix and Instagram at @TheBuccaneerStCroix.

Monday Will Be Mostly Sunny, Hazy, Scattered Showers, 87°F – SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT –

Updated 5/19/24 at 5:41 p.m. AST VI SOURCE WEATHER UPDATES ! Warm weather is expected again on Monday. The heat index, which the NWS defines as “the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature,” may be very high across portions of the islands. Stay hydrated and stay cool. Saharan dust may also be prevalent in the air, creating hazy conditions. ! The NWS has noted that an unsettled weather pattern may occur around mid-week. More information is available here. ! A NEW Weekly Weather Update video is available here! ! A NEW Daily Weather Video for Monday, May 20, is available here! Series: “Extreme Weather in the Caribbean”   MONDAY’S WEATHER FORECAST: 5/20/24 Happy Monday! According to the National Weather Service (NWS) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday will be mostly sunny and warm, with scattered showers. Saharan dust in the air may cause hazy conditions. The high temperature will be approximately 87°F, 30.5°C, with winds out of the east-southeast at about 16 mph, gusting up to 21 mph. The heat index may be high in some locations. The chance of rain on Monday is approximately 50%. Please remember that the ground is very saturated; additional rain could lead to flash flooding. Monday night will be partly cloudy, with a chance of scattered showers. The low temperature will be approximately 81°F, 27.2°C, with winds out of the east-southeast at about 16 mph, gusting up to 21 mph. The possibility of rain on Monday night is approximately 30%. An unstable weather pattern with rain may occur around mid-week. Please read more here. Below: Infrared satellite imagery obtained at 5:20 p.m. AST on Sunday indicates a mostly clear-to-partly cloudy sky around the USVI and Puerto Rico.  MARINE WEATHER UPDATE On Monday, the seas will be approximately 2 to 3 feet, with occasional seas up to 4 feet. Winds will be out of the east-southeast at about 10 to 15 knots, gusting up to 20 knots. On Monday night, the seas will be approximately 2 to 3 feet, with occasional seas up to 4 feet. Winds will be out of the east-southeast at about 10 to 15 knots, gusting up to 20 knots. The water temperature is approximately 86°F, approximately 30°C. Ocean Water Temperature Map from 5/19/24, courtesy of NOAA: Wave Height Forecast Map courtesy of NWS: HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS Rip Currents: The risk of rip currents is projected to be low to moderate across most of the region on Monday.  Clear = Low Rip Current Risk Yellow = Moderate Rip Current Risk Red = High Rip Current Risk Learn more about rip current safety in an interview between the NWS and the VI Source here. TROPIC WATCH Tropical Activity: The National Hurricane Center does not expect any cyclonic development over the next seven days. A possible La Niña Weather Pattern May Spawn an Active 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Read more here. Additionally, Colorado State University Predicts Extremely Active 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Click here to learn tips on being prepared for the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Days Until 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season: 12 Days  OBSERVATIONS Sunrise: 5:46 a.m. Sunset: 6:48 p.m. Ocean water temperature: Approximately 86°F, approximately 30°C. UV index: 10+ out of 10 (VERY HIGH) Sunday’s high temperature: 88°F, 31.1°C Sunday’s low temperature:  81°F, 27.2°C Preparation for extreme weather events in the Caribbean, such as earthquakes and tropical cyclones, is important. Residents and visitors in the USVI are encouraged to stay updated on weather events on the V.I. Source Weather page and sign up for alerts from the National Weather Service and the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency.

Amanda Scott White Dies

Amanda Scott White
Amanda “Sherri” Scott White hs died. She was born on Feb, 14, 1931, on the beautiful island of Antigua and went on to be with the Lord on May 7, 2024. Amanda was an incredible devoted mother, grandmother and great grandmother.  She cherished her family near and far. he was preceded in death by daughter, Fallicita Garvey; sons-in-law: Ivan Richardson and Roy Garvey; and grandchild, Dean Martin. Amanda is survived by her children: Patricia “Patsy” Scott and son, Daril Scott; daughter-in-law, Lydia Scott, son-in-law: Wally Waldron; grandchildren: Pauline Scott, Carlton Maynard, Marissa Garvey, Aletha Garvey-Hunt, and Royson Garvey; Tamika Scott Richards, Dr. Takara Scott, Darlene Scott-Johnson, Daria Scott, Dr. Monique Bowman, Renee Govia, Neta Christopher, Nesha Christopher, Denesha Hansen, Shawn Waldron, Dwayne Richardson, Davon Richardson, and the George and Joseph families; and many other relatives and friends too numerous to mention. The viewing will start at 9 a.m. followed by a funeral service at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 25, at  Church of God of Prophecy. Interment will be at the Smith Bay Eastern Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are by Turnbull’s Funeral Home and Crematory Services.

Rodney Emmanuel McIntosh Sr. Dies

Rodney Emmanuel McIntosh Sr.
Rodney Emmanuel McIntosh Sr. died on April 29. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ingerborg Bastian McIntosh. He is survived by his sons: Rodney Jr., Arthur “Bamboo,” Steve “Blackhead,” and Anthony Bow McIntosh; daughters: Beverly McIntosh, Stephanie McIntosh Luis and Nicole McIntosh Christian;  sons adopted by love: Garrett (Gary), Dean, Reginald and Dale Ritter; daughter adopted by love, Desiree Ritter Lambertis; sister, Michelle McIntosh Parrish; brothers: Roland, Mark and  Owen McIntosh; the grandchildren include Arthur’s Atimah, Ohzani and Jahfiyah; Beverly’s children: Michael and Carizma; Stephanie’s children: Simonique, Shomari and Jahnoi: Steve’s child, Nandie; Anthony’s children: Dara, Dana, Demarcus, Terrick, LaQuan, Kijani and Ayden; Nicole’s children: N’kosi, N’Kira, N’kisha; and Dale’s children: Nefiteria and Nabria. He is also survived by great-grandchildren: Arthur: John, Jelani and A’maiya; Beverly: Morgan, Amani, Xavier and Kymani; Stephanie: Housani, Jazara, Ahimelech, Arioch, Auset, Ravough, Suhon, Iylah, Kimori; nieces: Janelle, Kimaree, Indolicia, Markela, Angelisa, Delanie and Nyesha McIntosh Ashana Joseph, Donna Delacey, Athena and Bobby Heywood; nephews: Wayne Brown, Lionel and Avery Fawkes, Douglas, Donnie and Billy Heywood. Terrance and Darwin Heywood (deceased) Mark Jr., Nathan, Ajahla (deceased), Arron, Nairem, Rolando (deceased) Ray Jr. and Freddie McIntosh, Swaheil Joseph, Ray Christopher and James Parrish. daughters-in-law: Shinelle McIntosh, Lana, Sandra, Gloria Ritter and Brenda Parris McIntosh; sisters-in-law: Armel McIntosh (deceased) Annette and Frances McIntosh; and sons-in-law: Vigilio Benny Luis (deceased), Albion Lambertis and Paul Christian. Other survivors include cousins and cousins and special friends: Alvin Milligan and the Senior Center family and staff, Betty Inniss, Cynthia Douglas Hodge, Anna Brewster, K’Shylah Friday, Ruth Coggins, Bernette Matoo, Luz McDaniel, Felix DeAza Encarnacion, Lorne Dawson and family, Harvey Nielsen and family, Meridith Nielsen and family, Jamal Nielsen and Family, Helen Shirley and family, Rae Armstrong, Brenda Bastian, Haydee Pichardo, Erine Ritter, Francisco “Fling” Nazario, Rosie Sackey, Norma Christian, Richard Nicks, Viola Matthew, Madeline “Maddie” Garcia, Wayne Henry, Vivian Henry, Shermaine Henry, France “Fanny”  McIntosh Petersen and Sheila Gore; as well as other family and friends too numerous to mention.

Marietta Stephens Dies

Marietta Stephens
Marietta Stephens of Estate Sion Farm died on April 17. She was preceded in death by her mother, Albertha Belgo; father, Alphonso Orlanzo Stephens; children: Fay, Alphonso and Gregory Brown; and granddaughter, Phaith Lang. She was survived by her children: Gene Brown, Mauricia Lang, Latonia Lang, and Dezel Noel; grandchildren: Tasheem Bates, Tarema Bates, Zianna Angol, La’Gani Angol, D’Jimon A. Matthews, Claude Francis, Eduardo Prentice and Perla Prentice; great-grandson, Niko Francis; daughter-in-law, Joan Brown; brothers: Lloyd Stephens and Roy Stephens; sister, Geraldine Stephens; and nieces: Lisa Stephens, Kameelah Saylor, Joia Saylor, Kira Francis, Ahlia Jones-Paul and Naiema Jones-Arnold. She is also survived by nephews: Lloyd Stephens, Jr., Akeil Jones, Jelani Saylor, Delano Francis, Delmo Francis, Lionel Andreas, Wayne Andreas, Leonard Stephens, Lyle Stephens, Roy Stephens, Gerald Stephens and Olonso Stephens; great nieces: Kamya Green, Ka’Breah Reynolds and Amariah Paul; great nephews: Kamar Green, Amauri Paul and Asa Arnold; and sisters-in-law: Leona Stephens, Donna Browne-Jones and Thelma Nielson. Other survivors include cousins and other relatives: Gloria Joseph, Ilva Harrigan Jennings, Roberto Santos (Mani) and Jvante Edwards; special friends: Urylee Burke, Vernon Prentice, James Lawrence, Angelita Encarnacion, Vincent, Randolph, Daryl and Jack Petersen, Jennifer Joseph, Alexis Jackson-Brown, Vicky Maysonet, Allan Matthews, Claudette Williams, the Abramson family, Audley Hobson, Gloryvee Christian-Krigger, Veronica Jeffery, Kenya Knight and the Sunny Isle Crew; as well as other relatives and friend too numerous to mention. The viewing will begin at 9 a.m. followed by a funeral service at 10 a.m., Friday, May 17, at Victorious Believers. Interment will be at Kingshill Cemetery.

Neal Carrington Dies

Neal Carrington
Neal “Panta” Carrington died on April 26. He was born in Queens, New York, on Nov. 2, 1952. He was preceded in death by his father, Olric Carrington; and brother, Alan Carrington. He is survived by his mother, Winifred Carrington; siblings: Janice Carrington, Devin Carrington, Asta Carrington, Annette Carrington, Alyssa C. Fredericks and Olric Carrington II; 13 children; grandchildren: Nikolai Cupid, Austyn Carrington, Jasmine Carrington, Camila Carrington, Ji’Elle Arzu, Juliana Carrington, Emmalynn Carrington, Kaiden Carrington and Brielyn Carrington; and countless extended family members and friends. He is remembered by those who knew him for his love of and passion for playing music.