MSJ’s Covid suggestions: Faster test results, Cuban nurses and vaccines, and review home isolation policy

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“[…] The process of home isolation needs to be reviewed so that we do not have significant spread in families… It is to be noted that many persons live in circumstances that do not allow social distancing and the isolation of an ill family member. 

“It may therefore be necessary for other state properties to be converted into state quarantine facilities for positive patients who are not very ill but who cannot effectively self-isolate at home…”

The following press statement, which suggests ways to help lower Trinidad and Tobago’s Covid-19 infection rate, was submitted to Wired868 by Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah:

Photo: A woman self-isolates from the novel coronavirus.

The Movement for Social Justice has to date refrained from engaging in any public debate concerning the medical management of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

We have done so, not out of any particular confidence in the political leadership of the country, but rather out of respect for our health care professionals who have very competently led us thus far through the pandemic.

That approach is clearly not one adopted by the UNC, which at every opportunity has attacked and sought to delegitimise how the pandemic is being handled, medically. This became outrageous when first one UNC MP questioned the World Health Organisation’s approval of the Sinopharm (Beijing) vaccine and then the opposition leader herself attacked the integrity of the chief medical officer of Health and his team—knowing full well that these are professional public servants who will not and cannot respond to political attacks. 

We note that the UNC is now changing its song with respect to the Sinopharm vaccine, after some leading members who are medical doctors openly contradicted MP Dr Roodal Moonilal. The UNC’s position is to be deplored since it has contributed to ‘vaccine hesitancy’ and the possible loss of confidence in vaccinations and in our professional public servants in the health care sector.

Photo: UNC leader and Siparia MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar (background) on the campaign trail during the run up to the 10 August 2020 elections.
(via UNC)

On the other hand, it is becoming clear to the citizenry that the government has not done enough to ensure that this third wave of the virus is being contained and suppressed. The institution of a state of emergency alone is not sufficient at this time. Public-private partnerships are not what is required, what is necessary is to properly maximise our public health care sector’s capability. 

The MSJ is therefore calling on the government to step up with respect to key policies.

There needs to be the faster processing of test results so that Covid positive persons are not getting sicker while awaiting results, thus increasing the possibility of them becoming critically ill. This will also reduce the risk of positive persons ending up in the non-parallel health care institutions and also help to reduce the possibility of them spreading the virus, especially to family members.

The process of home isolation needs to be reviewed so that we do not have significant spread in families. From media reports, there have been multiple deaths in one family and multiple cases within one household.

Photo: A patient under quarantine at home..

It is to be noted that many persons live in circumstances that do not allow social distancing and the isolation of an ill family member. It may therefore be necessary for other state properties to be converted into state quarantine facilities for positive patients who are not very ill but who cannot effectively self-isolate at home.

Some schools and community centres, for example, could be temporarily converted into such quarantine facilities.

There is a critical shortage of health care professionals in the public sector. The MSJ supports calls made by the Registered Nurses Association and others for additional personnel to be recruited.

The government should: (a) ask Cuba to provide additional health care professionals; (b) engage, on short term contracts, retired nurses to assist in the vaccination drive and in our hospitals; (c) ensure the immediate restart of all nursing training so that we can have a sufficient number of trained nurses to fill existing vacancies; (d) offer permanent contracts of employment to all nurses, doctors and other health care workers who are functioning in permanent positions but who are employed on short term contracts.

Photo: Idi Stuart (centre, blue jersey) leads a TTRNA demonstration in June 2020.
(via TTRNA)

This latter is absolutely necessary if we are to stem the loss of our trained personnel who can and have been getting more lucrative employment abroad.

The government, if it has not already done so, should immediately engage the Government of Cuba with respect to procuring one of the Cuban vaccines that have been identified by the WHO as candidates for Emergency Use Approval, similar to all the other vaccines currently in use.

Many of our citizens have confidence in the Cuban medical system and its bio-technology capacity; so the availability of a Cuban vaccine will contribute to a reduction in vaccine hesitancy.

The MSJ commends our frontline health care professionals for the tremendous work that they are doing and all citizens need to support them by observing the protocols so as to reduce the virus’ spread.

The government and the various RHAs as the employers must do better in their treatment of health care workers. There must be proper consultation between the employers and the organisations representing the workers.

Photo: A nurse administers the Covid-19 vaccine in Trinidad.
(via MoH

Working hours cannot be unilaterally altered—that is breaking the law; consideration should be given to providing transportation and other assistance to the workers during this period; special duty allowances can be considered, among other means of recognising these workers’ invaluable contributions to our national wellbeing.

The MSJ’s policy position is pro-vaccination. Vaccination is the only proven way to defeat viral pandemics. 

To this end we hosted an extremely informative and educational ‘Tuesday Talk with the MSJ’ last evening, in which our guest presenter—a highly qualified medical doctor and public health expert—addressed the issue of the pandemic and the importance of vaccination. This can be viewed on the MSJ’s Facebook Page 

Our leadership has also walked the talk. The MSJ’s chair, Gregory Fernandez, political leader, David Abdulah, and general secretary, Ozzi Warwick, were vaccinated, when it became available to our segment of the population.


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