Tobago hotelier: Appoint foreign experts to covid19 review team

Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James. - File photo
Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James. - File photo

Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James has said the five-man committee appointed by the Prime Minister to examine the operations the country’s healthcare as it related to covid19 should have included at least two international experts.

During a news conference on Saturday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Dr Rowley announced that the committee, headed by Prof Terence Seemungal, agreed to review the quality of healthcare within hospitals “with a professional eye.”

He said he appointed the committee in response to the view, in some quarters, that the quality of healthcare in the country was substandard and contributing to the large numbers of covid19-related deaths.

The committee, which includes former chief medical officer Dr Anton Cumberbatch, is expected to present an initial report to the government at the end of the week. Rowley said the report will be made public.

Birchwood-James said while she welcomes the committee in the spirit of its intent, foreign experts should have been included.

“I like the five-man committee but I have a caveat,” she told Sunday Newsday.

“It looks as though the Prime Minister is reading the population but he has not read it properly, as far as I am concerned. He needed out of that five-man committee, two foreign experts to give it an international balance because when you listen to people, they do not trust our in-house statistics. They do not trust what some of our doctors are saying and this is where your foreign experts will come in.”

She added, “So, I think that while he read the population, I think that this is an area where he needed two foreign experts to give some kind of an international independence. It does not mean that your experts are not good but you also need some kind of an international aspect to what you want.”

Birchwood-James said people must have confidence in the healthcare system, particularly where the care of critically ill covid19 patients in the intensive care and high dependency units are concerned

“This is what you want and, therefore, you needed some kind of an international input there beside your local experts.”

Birchwood-James also welcomed the news that beaches will now be opened from 5 am to 2 pm.

“It will give us some more wiggle room because we have had some complaints from some of our foreign guests who have just arrived. Some of them weren’t aware that beaches weren’t fully opened.”

British Airways resumed flights to the island on Monday with 94 passengers, almost two years after the borders were shut down to prevent the spread of covid19. Virgin Airlines is expected to resume flights to the island on January 29.

Birchwood-James said she was also pleased with the announcement that consideration is being given to resuming reef tour operations with some health protocols.

Rowley said he plans to meet with THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine some time this week to discuss the issue.

“It seems as though after some talk with the Chief Secretary, there will be some relief for them. So, I would say that is favourable.”

She added, “I like how he would talk to the Chief Secretary and have a conversation. I think that’s the best way to go in the present climate. We don’t want any antagonism.

“What we want is consultation, talking, coming together and making a mutual decision that is in the benefit of the people of Tobago and Trinidad.”

Birchwood-James said the decision to review the Government’s vaccination policy for categories of workers in the public sector is also a step in the right direction.

Workers have been given a one-month extension – February 17 – to be vaccinated. Rowley said Attorney General Faris al-Rawi is finalising legislation to give effect to the policy based on proposals from some trade unions, chambers of commerce, religious bodies and other stakeholders.


"Tobago hotelier: Appoint foreign experts to covid19 review team"

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