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Dear Editor: Citizens alone aren’t to blame, MoH’s delivery of test results is inadequate

“[…] There is also the case of someone who was in contact with a person who tested positive. They did a test at a health centre and after five days they did not receive the result. The individual responsibly went into self-quarantine and eventually received a negative report. 

“Why in these critical times have the necessary measures not been put in place so that health centres could be opened on public holidays or 24 hours a day to do testing?”

The following Letter to the Editor on the Ministry of Health’s grip on the current surge of Covid-19 cases was submitted to Wired868 by Bryan St Louis:

Photo: A male nurse swabs for Covid-19.
(Copyright Getty Images)

In the Newsday of Friday 1st May 2020, Trinidad and Tobago was listed at number one in an updated Covid-19 lockdown rollback checklist compiled by Oxford University researchers.

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, asked for his thoughts on TT’s position at the time said the population should not react with a false sense of security.

He added, however, that the Oxford report is ‘a very good report’ and ‘paints us in an excellent light’. 

‘This is testimony to what we have been saying all along,’ Deyalsingh said, ‘that our response to Covid, led by the prime minister, was a robust one… What this speaks to is that the world is recognising that the decision not to flip a switch and open back the economy is the right way.’

One year later, as at 22 May 2021, we are at a death toll of over 300 persons and over 7,000 active cases. Over 6,000 patients are at home in self-isolation, over 400 patients are in hospital, over 100 people are in step-down facilities waiting to be discharged and over 200 people are in state quarantine.

Photo: A Penal store is closed due to Covid-19 restrictions on 23 April 2020 and urges customers to stay home.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

The country has had over 19,000 positive cases since its first case on 12 March 2020—of this approximately 11,000 people have recovered. I wonder, how we are rated now by Oxford University researchers?

It is my view that we are at this stage now not because of violations of Covid-19 protocols, but because our Ministry of Health is overwhelmed by the number of cases and has lost control of the processes to test, monitor and administer the checks and balances to treat with reported cases. 

What happens now when people are told to self-quarantine and someone from the Ministry of Health would make contact?

Well, there are numerous cases of no contact being made [by health officials] during the life of the self-quarantine period. How does this affect contact tracing and what about the affected individual, as far as receiving medical advice during quarantine and testing or otherwise post-quarantine?

Additionally, someone told me that one of their employees tested positive and some 13 days after, they were contacted to go into quarantine. They questioned the rationale based on the time period and was told that a doctor would contact them. 

Photo: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh.
(via MoH)

Subsequently, the person was contacted days after the mandatory 14-day quarantine period and was told seeing that 14 days had passed there was no need to go on self-quarantine, but that they should monitor their status daily.

There is also the case of someone who was in contact with a person who tested positive. They did a test at a health centre and after five days they did not receive the result. The individual responsibly went into self-quarantine and eventually received a negative report. 

Why in these critical times have the necessary measures not been put in place so that health centres could be opened on public holidays or 24 hours a day to do testing? 

Why is there a problem in this period of crisis to have the self-testing Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test Device kits approved for use by citizens who are having problems getting tested via the Ministry of Health and are not equipped financially to have it done privately?

Based on these observations, the worrying surge of Covid-19 in our country should not be surprising and it has the capacity to get worse, despite the measures and Covid-19 protocols being implemented—because it appears that the MoH is overwhelmed and unable to do what is being propagated at the Covid-19 updates, to get a handle on the spiralling cases.

Photo: Persons wait for the Covid-19 vaccine.
(via Ministry of Health)

Now is the time to do an honest review involving all stakeholders of what has gone wrong so we can do all the things necessary soonest, to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic from getting out of control in our beloved Trinidad and Tobago.

About Bryan St Louis

Bryan St Louis is a former education officer for the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU).

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4 comments

  1. But they are busy ‘rotating- specialists amidst the heightened crisis and compounding the monumental mess underpinned by their chronic failures

  2. Totally agree.
    I volunteer one hour of my time, 7 am to 8 am daily, to assist with calling persons. Don’t know the specifics of how this system will work, but there are many persons at home seeking an opportunity to be useful at this time and said persons can be engaged in this regard.

    • Lasana Liburd

      I think that’s a very good idea. The first thing I thought about when I read this was that there are many people out of a job right now. They can help out and maybe earn a little at the same time.
      So I definitely think the Ministry of Health could get volunteers in that way.

    • It’s heartening to see someone offering a workable solution instead of the blame game and criticism being hurled at efforts being made. It is always easy to criticize without a solution. If you can’t offer constructive criticism at this time, please look inward. Thanks Germaine Raymond for this.