Govt widens scope to detect covid19: Testing time

Assistant director of CARPHA Dr Lisa Indar at Friday's media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's. -
Assistant director of CARPHA Dr Lisa Indar at Friday's media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's. -

A wider range of people in TT are going to be tested for covid19 from now on.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is to test samples from patients who have one or more severe covid19 symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or respiratory illness.

Up to now, only people who have travelled to a country with covid19 cases, who had been in contact with covid19 patients or had severe respiratory illness were tested.

Assistant director of CARPHA Dr Lisa Indar announced the new protocol on Friday at a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

The change is in keeping the new guidelines sent out by the World Health Organisation.

The Ministry of Health is said to be preparing for the inevitable change when the virus is not confined to “imported” cases of the virus, but moves to “community spread,” among people within the country who did not contract the virus while travelling abroad.

All the nine confirmed covid19 cases in TT to date have been imported cases.

At the press conference, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said, “Sooner or later there will come a time when we are going to have community cases.”

Deyalsingh also said the 4,000 test kits donated to TT by China are expected to be here by next week. TT will also add 15 thermal scanners to those being used at points of entry into the country.

The government has gathered 100 people ­– 50 from the Red Cross Society and 50 registered nurses– to assist with proper contract tracing, starting this weekend.

The minister said the Red Cross has volunteered these trained tracers and they will now work under the management of the Ministry of Health to help with contact tracing. The nurses will come from the ministry’s District Health Visitor programme.

The government is also planning to make use of retired healthcare workers and junior doctors.

“We are not waiting for the need to go that route because this is an evolving situation. TT is part of a global pandemic. So we have to have plans in place, mitigation, strategies going forward,” Deyalsingh said.

Some doctors at the North Central Regional Health Authority, especially consultants and senior medical officers, will now be assigned to the Couva hospital, one of the planned centres for treating the anticipated covid19 patients.

Deyalsingh said. “We have now made Couva the focal point for tertiary advanced care for covid19 patients.”

He explained this move will leave a gap at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex so the government decided to hire more junior doctors to “backfill” this gap. These junior doctors will be under the supervision of consultants at the hospital.

Deyalsingh said, “That will free up some senior medical officers and consultants to work at Couva.”

Dr Erica Wheeler, Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) representative in TT, said the organisation will be looking at equipment, increasing staff at labs and donating supplies.

PAHO will provide information on suppliers to CARPHA if the lab machines currently being used are not compatible with the detection test.

TT will also receive 3,000 test kits from PAHO headquarters in Washington next week and medical staff are expected to be provided with more personal protective equipment soon.

Wheeler said the focus is on the standard of isolation facilities, TT’s hospital readiness checklist, protocols and operational procedures.

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