The THA Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development has received full marks for its management of covid19 from its secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine.
Responding to a request to rate the division’s handling of the virus during Monday’s virtual news conference, the secretary said: “I would say ten (out of ten). I think that we have put all of the systems in place, we’ve created various pathways… we have managed those positive cases very well, most of them have recovered to date and we continue to plan for phase two of the covid pandemic in the event or when the border reopens if we were to have any positive cases, how we would treat with them going forward.”
Since Tobago's first positive covid19 case on March 22, Tobago has had five confirmed cases of the virus and one person has died.
Updating the island on the latest figures Davidson-Celestine said, "Our number of samples testing positive stands at five and our number of samples testing negative stands at 93 to date. We continue the process of testing, we try as possible to ensure that we test throughout the length and breadth of Tobago to get a better understanding of what is happening in our communities.”
With the threat of border closure a number of nationals returned to Trinidad and there was a fear they would be bringing the virus back to the population. Davidson-Celestine said the division put protocols in place to treat with this scenario. Three quarantine facilities were also rented. For patients testing positive for covid19, they would initially be stabilised at the Scarborough General Hospital before being transported to Trinidad by the Coast Guard for further treatment. This arrangement did not sit well with the Minority who accused the PNM-led THA of treating Tobago callously.
Discussing measures taken to ensure Tobago’s readiness, Davidson-Celestine listed the following:
1. Ongoing meetings with internal stakeholders to develop and implement a co-ordinated response to covid19, creating the covid19 plan of action.
2. Ongoing meetings with stakeholders including but not limited to the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA), the port, airport, police and TEMA, to inform and educate the public on the treatment and management of the virus and to share the management plan for any covid19 case in Tobago.
3. Stakeholder training has been conducted and protocols and procedures initiated at ports of entries for isolation, and management of such cases.
4. Thermal screening of passengers on international flights to Tobago.
5. Regularly updating the public through media briefings, press releases, media interviews and social media posts; preventative measures through media releases and social posts; keeping the population aware as to the implications of not following covid19 rules and regulations.
6. At the level of the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation a number of activities have been cancelled.
As it relates to Tobago’s economy, Davidson-Celestine said a committee will be established to examine the economic effects of covid19.
She said a covid19 hotline was set up and was managed by senior doctors. Davidson-Celestine said those experiencing flu-like symptoms can call the hotline and they will be triaged by the doctor on the phone who will then advise as to the next course of action.
With the first phase of reopening the country started on Monday, the secretary emphasised the need to continue adhering to the stay-at-home order as the virus continues to lurk.
“The success of all of this depends on you, the people, therefore I advise that we operate according to all of the guidelines, the guidelines given by the Ministry of Health, the guidelines from the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development, all of the public officers, all of the doctors. At the end of the day, we do not want you to become complacent.”
Davidson-Celestine said the stay-at-home measures are still in effect for non-essential workers and gatherings of more than five are still prohibited.
“We’re reminding you to wash your hands as much as it's possible, practise those hygienic rules and regulations, those standards that we know best and I am sure if we are to work together in doing those, we can fight this covid that continues to stare us in our face.”
Commenting on the four ventilators received, Davidson-Celestine said the division is working assiduously towards the preparation of getting its lab up and running, but more so, the division is awaiting the arrival of the point-of-care testing machine, which she said is expected by Wednesday.
“The training of staff is ongoing at the lab and we want to ensure that we facilitate the transfer of knowledge in utilising the machines as much as its possible. It is expected, based on the discussions that we’ve been having, that the machine would be ready for testing Tobagonians and those who are suspects by mid next week.”
Davidson-Celestine said the division has been focused on the resumption of normal operations at the health facilities on the island.
“I have been advised that some specialist services have resumed, from May 15 we would see the resumption of the neurology clinics, on May 19 – cardiology clinic and on the 22nd of May – haematology clinic. We are currently awaiting information from the specialist attached to rheumatology and also the dermatology clinics. I am assured that all those persons that are to be treated by speciality clinics dealing with neurology, cardiology and haematology, they have since been contacted and would be present to receive patient care as early as this week.”
She also noted that community surveillance would have begun, “in order to obtain a better picture as to what is happening within the communities throughout Tobago.
“I have been advised that testing would be done in three parts; we would test persons in communities utilising the health centres to test as many persons as is possible, we would also be testing at the hospital as well at the A&E and testing though active case findings and detection.
“I have also been advised by the team that the process for testing is relatively quick, it is relatively easy and simple and therefore there is no need to be fearful. I know a number of persons would have called in with concerns and I want to use this opportunity to alley those fears and to indicate to you that the process is a relatively simple one. Therefore, if you have any sign and symptoms, please come forward for testing because what we are attempting to do can eventually save your lives going forward.”