“[…] It should have been obvious to the minister of health that with all the deaths, the high number of cases and the reported dominance of the Brazilian variant, most people would want to be vaccinated. Get vaccinated has been the message for several weeks and citizens heeded the call.
“The implementation is the responsibility of the minister of health. The excuse that they didn’t anticipate such a response is just not good enough. What happened yesterday showed that there was inadequate planning: one key aspect of which is forecasting…”
The following press statement on the Trinidad and Tobago government’s vaccination drive was submitted to Wired868 by Movement for Social Justice political leader David Abdulah:
The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) is extremely disturbed by two facts that point to the need for new thinking and leadership skills at the Ministry of Health.
There is no doubting that for the better part of a year, the Ministry of Health was able to successfully guide the country through the first phases of the Covid-19 pandemic. The country flattened the curve quickly and the number of positive cases and the number of people who sadly lost their lives, were both relatively low. Our success on the health front was due to the team of professionals in our public healthcare system.
In the past three months, however, the reality is very different. In the last six weeks we have moved from less than 200 deaths to over 600! Positive cases continue to be very worrisome and of course the economy is largely shut down.
The government has correctly targeted vaccination as the major way out of the crisis and has begun to get larger numbers of vaccines into the country with promises of more to come. The roll-out of the new vaccines to the persons other than those identified in the public-private ‘vaccinate to operate’ strategy has, however, been a disaster.
It should have been obvious to the minister of health that with all the deaths, the high number of cases and the reported dominance of the Brazilian variant, most people would want to be vaccinated. Get vaccinated has been the message for several weeks and citizens heeded the call.
The implementation is the responsibility of the minister of health. The excuse that they didn’t anticipate such a response is just not good enough. What happened yesterday showed that there was inadequate planning: one key aspect of which is forecasting.
The ministry definitely needs new skills such as planning, project management and event management to support our medical professionals.
It is clear that the vaccination roll-out has not been based on a thorough, medium term plan but has been developed ‘on the go’. Every day we are told of something new.
The first come, first serve system—even if limited to persons over 60 and those below 60 with NCD’s was harebrained at best, when each health centre could only vaccinate 100 or so persons a day. The pain, frustration and anger of our senior citizens yesterday was real and distressing.
Even the new alphabetical system was seen not to work very early this morning as there were news reports of persons who fit the age and name profile, being turned away as early as 7am. This is just not good enough!
The worrying number of deaths is also cause for concern. The ‘isolate at home’ model is not working as too many people don’t have the luxury of so isolating, given their living conditions.
We started off a year ago with all Covid positive persons being placed in a public health facility, but when the numbers increased this shifted to ‘isolate/quarantine at home’. That is now not working as the virus is spreading within families. The model needs to be changed.
The MSJ has advocated utilising our many large and well outfitted community centres as facilities for those who can’t properly isolate at home. We also proposed utilising many more retired health care professionals to provide care in these facilities and to seek additional support from Cuba.
We also said that existing nursing and other workers who have temporary employment but who are in a permanent job, should be given permanent contracts so that we can retain our staff as they are being lured abroad by lucrative opportunities.
We are not the only ones with ideas. The important thing is that the ministry cannot continue with the same old, same old approach. New ideas and new leadership is needed. That is the primary responsibility of the minister.
Perhaps he has now gotten to the outer limit of his capacity given the magnitude of the present challenges; or has become so caught up with past success that he thinks he is on the crest of a wave. That was the message he communicated in the Parliament yesterday.
Whatever it is, something has to change. At the minimum, the minister has to admit that things are failing and seek additional support, ideas and skills to complement our health care professionals, in whom we still have great faith.
But they alone can’t guide this ship safely to shore. The minister of health will be judged on what he does now.