Trinidad: Health workers won’t get masks unless needed -Deyalsingh

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Trinidad: Health workers won’t get masks unless needed -Deyalsingh
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – There are more than enough N-95 masks in the pub­lic sec­tor in event of a COVID-19 out­break and a fur­ther 25,000 masks ar­rive next week – but health work­ers will on­ly get the masks if and when a COVID-19 case oc­curs.

That’s the word from Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh, who replied to Op­po­si­tion ques­tions on the is­sue in the Sen­ate yes­ter­day.

Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress Sen­a­tor Wade Mark had queried a re­port­ed short­age of the masks, which are re­quired by health care providers at­tend­ing to COVID-19 cas­es. The num­ber of glob­al cas­es are now over 90,000, in­clud­ing three in the Caribbean.

Deyals­ingh said Mark’s query stemmed from cer­tain dai­ly ar­ti­cles, in­clud­ing one at­tribut­ing com­ments to Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies Pro­fes­sor Bri­an Copeland. Deyals­ingh said Copeland called him yes­ter­day “in shock” to say he nev­er made the re­port­ed com­ment.

Deyals­ingh said the oth­er ar­ti­cle con­cerned a short­age of N-95 masks. He said while there’s a short­age in the pri­vate sec­tor there’s ab­solute­ly no short­age in the pub­lic sec­tor.

Deyals­ingh added, “We have more than enough stock and in the event that an epi­dem­ic or out­break should hap­pen. As a sig­na­to­ry to the Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (PA­HO) and World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), this coun­try has ac­cess to PA­HO strate­gic stock of emer­gency Per­son­al Pro­tec­tive Equip­ment (PPE) in Pana­ma which can be rushed to T&T in 48 hours if re­quired.

“So far as the pub­lic’s con­cerned, there’s no short­age. We even have a fur­ther ship­ment of 25,000 masks com­ing in from 3M in about a week to add to the 23,000 we al­ready have in stock – so ab­solute­ly no short­age in the pub­lic sec­tor,” he said, dis­miss­ing re­ports which he said were dri­ven by so­cial me­dia.

When Mark queried why nurs­es were threat­en­ing to stop work with­out pro­tec­tive wear Deyals­ingh ac­cused the UNC of dri­ving an “un­true nar­ra­tive.”

He added, “The min­istry has a stock­pile and all PPE will be made avail­able from our stock to front­line work­ers when there’s an out­break or if there’s one. It makes lit­tle sense to dis­trib­ute now when there’s no out­break.

“Bear­ing in mind that glob­al sup­ply chains have been af­fect­ed, we have to pro­tect our stocks. If we have an out­break, our strate­gic stocks will be ac­ti­vat­ed and more will be avail­able. There’s enough PPE stock for nurs­es, doc­tors and oth­er front­line peo­ple.

“You don’t dis­trib­ute stock now and then it gets lost in the sys­tem and if you have a pos­i­tive case you have none. We have it. It’ll be made avail­able to pub­lic sec­tor front­line peo­ple for their pro­tec­tion when there’s con­firmed or even a sus­pect­ed case.”

He said every­body “wants their five min­utes of fame on the is­sue.” Deyals­ingh com­plained that he had to an­swer 40 calls every morn­ing where he re­fut­ed so­cial me­dia claims, “… large­ly dri­ven by the UNC.”

Fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of To­ba­go House of As­sem­bly Sec­re­tary for Health Dr Agatha Car­ring­ton, Deyals­ingh as­sured that sys­tems for man­age­ment of any COVID-19 is­sue in To­ba­go were al­so part of the na­tion­al re­sponse plan.

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