‘[…] Given the low rate of vaccination, our population is wide open to death or hospitalisation from the Delta variant…’ That was bluntly stated in my column of 5 September, ten weeks ago, with the foresight that the Government would helplessly wait around—self-praise tying up its brain, while its bouffes and bullying failed miserably to motivate the population to get vaccinated in sufficient numbers.
No attempt at a creative legislative intervention to support vaccination was made.
The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections campaign is now on. It can equally be foretold that the contenders will shamelessly practise ‘do as I say not as I do’ and recklessly gather and spread the Delta even more.
Each side will seek glibly to justify their gatherings because their opponents in the election are doing it too. It is part of our degrading political debates to compare competing misbehaviour in terms such as ‘Take it to the police… We didn’t tief, and who tief more than you?’
Can the Government stop bouffing us and telling us that everything—including having diabetes and therefore being more likely to die from Covid-19—is our fault?
Troubling statements about the unconstitutional assault on the process for the appointment of the commissioner of police, the rampant murders and the fear attendant upon the end of the state of emergency have also been made. We have become a land of desperate excuses.
Perhaps gang warfare, domestic violence and robberies will be declared to be ‘co-morbidities’ which inconveniently make our murder rates look bad, just like the diabetes co-morbidity is making our Covid 19 statistics look bad—despite the Government’s pandemic management, for which it claims high praise for itself.
Desperation to make excuses often drives fury against commentators. However, many commentators usefully suggest different approaches or remind ministers what prescriptions for better outcomes already exist, such as those of the Terrence Farrell-led Economic Advisory Board and the Selwyn Ryan-led report entitled No time to quit—Engaging Youth at Risk.
In July this year, I tried to point the Minister of Health away from victim-blaming types of remarks about the prevalence of diabetes when linking this condition to the numbers of Covid deaths.
More recently, in a webinar entitled Access to Diabetes Care: Self-Care is Essential, the Minister reportedly said that the pandemic has further reinforced the importance of the management and control of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
He referred to the ‘stunning’ prevalence of diabetes in Trinidad and Tobago: ‘rising from 4 per cent in the 1980’s to 40-50 per cent at present, with 88 to 90 per cent of people affected having Type 2 diabetes’.
I had referred to The Trinidad and Tobago Health Sciences Initiative, which took place between 2006-2014 and spanned two different administrations. It was a collaboration between world renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine International and several of our agencies, including the University of the West Indies and Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Health.
The material from which I had quoted was drawn from the programme’s website, but I met two of the physicians at different levels of the programme when they were in Trinidad.
One was the head of the programme, the then distinguished chair of the Department of Endocrinology at Johns Hopkins. The other was one of the co-authors of a publication entitled ‘Barriers to Optimal Diabetes Care in Trinidad and Tobago’ (BioMed Central Research 2015). This person also conducted clinics in Tobago as well as Trinidad.
One ‘pride point’ of the programme was the ‘diabetes outreach programme that facilitated co-ordinated care and reduced the burden of disease and its complications’. The programme included ‘health assessments with instant results—more than 1,000 health assessments conducted with goals to add retinal examinations to better triage patients with vision problems’.
Another pride point was ‘a pilot home hypertension management programme’.
In terms of access to self-care, we do not therefore need more webinars, posturing and reprimands.
We need the Minister of Health to tell us this: were the pride points of the Hopkins/TT diabetes outreach programme maintained, and what support does the Government currently provide through the personnel who were trained under that programme?