(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh is reassuring the public that they will not be endangered in any way by the operations of step-down facilities or holding bays currently being set up across the country to house patients recovering from COVID-19 before they are discharged from the State’s care.
The assurance came hours after it was revealed that 17 asymptomatic patients in the convalescent phase had been decanted from the Couva Hospital to the Caura Hospital on Friday night. It is believed this will be a temporary relocation before they are moved from Caura Hospital to a step-down facility at Brooklyn Settlement, Sangre Grande.
On Friday night, residents living close to the property, which was previously used as an old-aged home, protested the impending arrival of the community’s newest additions as they argued their lives would be placed in danger.
Angry residents claimed while they were notified before and pamphlets with information on COVID-19 had been distributed throughout the community, they had not been allowed to voice their concerns.
But during yesterday’s virtual press conference to update the country on COVID-19 matters, Deyalsingh implored residents to demonstrate understanding and compassion for their fellowmen during this time.
Turning to the national watch-words of Discipline, Production and Tolerance for inspiration, he said: “If we live by those watchwords, we are trying to treat citizens of T&T. These are people in their time of need. They are looking to communities to treat them humanely and with respect. I would like to think that we could rise to the occasion.
“The people who have COVID-19 did not bring it upon themselves and we have to be compassionate at this time, as I know we can. We have to be our brothers’ keeper, as I know we can.”
Deyalsingh said facilities to be used will offer acreage as a buffer to the surrounding community and that the patients will be kept secure and not allowed to mingle with those on the outside.
He revealed that all selected facilities will be screened based on suitability for both the patients and the community to ensure no one is put at risk.
He said the general guideline is that “there must a certain amount of spatial arrangement so members of the community are as far away as possible.”
“It must have sleeping accommodations. These are not hospitals, these are what you would call holding bays, as we did in Balandra,” Deyalsingh said in reference to the Camp Balandra site where the 68 nationals who returned from an ill-fated Caribbean cruise were housed when they returned home on March 18.
Deyalsingh said the cost for each facility will vary and almost three weeks after the 68 cruise passengers were quarantined in Balandra, he said the use of that facility was costing the Government $85,000 per month. However, he was quick to note that while there were paying for some of the facilities, some are being offered to them free of charge.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram assured residents that patients placed at Brooklyn Settlement will not pose a risk to them.
He explained that careful efforts are made to select step-down facilities based on their geographical and physical layouts, which must resemble a dormitory styling that can sleep a number of people separate and apart, as recovering patients need a certain degree of isolation before being discharged.
Parasram said: “When we choose an area to have patients with COVID-19 as a quarantine site, there is no risk of spread to any member of the population in that jurisdiction.
“We go to lengths to ensure that the site is so laid out that there’s a certain distance between the edge of the property and even the dwellings within so that there can be no spread.”
He assured that selected sites would ensure protection for both those on the inside and outside.
Parasram agreed that the geriatric population was more at risk, as mortality statistics out of Italy and China showed the greatest risk of death was in persons 60 years and over.
As co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are factored in, Parasram said most of the people 60 years would have hypertension, diabetes or some other illness, which increases the risk of death.
During the briefing, Deyalsingh urged the public to stay home and stay safe as he noted the alarming rates at which global cases and deaths were being recorded. He described worldwide statistics which crossed one million cases on Friday, as grim.
In a bid to shock the local populace, he warned, “No place on earth, no matter how remote or underpopulated, can escape this virus.”
Referring to the remote South Atlantic archipelago–the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina–Deyalsingh said they had just recorded their first case.
Meanwhile, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in T&T continues to increase daily. Up to 4 pm yesterday, a total of 103 cases had been recorded.
Providing a breakdown of the statistics, Parasram said the number of patients hospitalised now stood at 93.
This included one patient at the Scarborough General Hospital ICU who is on a ventilator; 26 ambulatory patients at the Caura Hospital, who were said to be in a very good state and 66 patients at Couva Hospital–of which two are in the ICU, with one on a ventilator; 11 in the HDU and 53 ambulatory cases.
The deaths remained at six up to last evening, with one patient discharged.
Educating the public on the use of masks, Parasram said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only this week advised people to use cloth-like or home-made masks in every setting and for N95 and surgical masks to be used by medical practitioners only.
Deyalsingh also revealed that work permits for the incoming batch of Cuban nurses have been approved and health officials are working with Caribbean Airlines to organise a flight to bring them in by the middle of next week.