Sat | Mar 28, 2020

Hospitals will buckle when COVID-19 surges, says Guy

Published:Wednesday | March 25, 2020 | 12:26 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica’s already burdened healthcare system could be overwhelmed in the coming weeks as the extent of community transmission of COVID-19 becomes clearer, Opposition Spokesman on Health Dr Morais Guy has said.

Guy, who is also a medical doctor, said that the Government’s failure to declaratively say how a Portland resident, who was recently identified as COVID-19 positive, contracted the virus was an indicator that community spread could already be under way.

The Ministry of Health & Wellness is currently investigating the circumstances under which the Portlander contracted the virus.

“I think is a clear sign that we do have community transmission now. That was just a matter of time. The issue now is containment and treatment, which brings into focus the capacity of our health system to cope,” Guy said.

Jamaica has so far confirmed 25 cases of COVID-19 on the island, but as local transmission increases, that number could quickly swell, Guy said, ultimately causing the healthcare system to buckle.

Already some medical practitioners are reportedly preparing for the worst with the expected uptick in cases.

“This is not the Opposition scaremongering, but facts and data from other countries with far greater capacity in their health system have been overwhelmed. It stands to reason that our health system, with its ailing infrastructure, will see a major impact,” he said.

“It is not an if or a but, because as we all know, our health service is not at the stage where we can have real confidence in its capacity to respond fully as we all would like,” he added.

PRAGMATIC RESPONSE

At the same time, Guy has credited the Government generally for tackling the crisis with pragmatism.

He, however, differs with the country’s chief medical officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, on the premise that only persons who show symptoms are infectious and thus capable of spreading the virus.

Guy said her position was “outrageous, disturbing and alarming”.

“That was a ridiculous statement and its most unfortunate that it’s coming from the chief adviser to the Government on health matters, because we know that persons, even though less likely if infected, can and will spread the COVID-19 virus,” the health spokesman said.

Further, he reaffirmed his belief that Jamaica’s testing regimen was well behind and urged the Ministry of Health & Wellness to ramp up assessments beyond those showing symptoms.

“The Government should adhere to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) to test as many people as is humanly possible, even by acquiring and utilising rapid testing kits.

“The WHO is saying that the only way we can stay ahead of the virus to flatten the curve quickly is through testing, and that means everyone, whether showing symptoms or not,” said Guy.

He said the Government’s announcement to test everyone who presents to hospitals with acute respiratory illnesses was a bold move, but worries that the latest measure falls short of the WHO recommendations that say every person who comes in contact with a potential COVID-19 case should be assessed.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com