Fri | Oct 23, 2020

Healthcare workers worried as COVID-19 cases spike

Published:Monday | August 31, 2020 | 12:06 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Health workers in at least four health centres in St Catherine, Clarendon, St Elizabeth and St Ann say they are worried that the spike in COVID-19 cases will overwhelm primary healthcare across the island.

Jamaica recorded one death related to COVID-19, as reported on Saturday evening, even as the number of confirmed positive cases increased by 102. The total number of deaths related to COVID-19 is now 20 while the total number of positives is 2,113.

Already, nurses are feeling the pressure.

Registered nurse Samantha Brown (name changed to protect her identity), who works at a health centre in a Portmore community, said there are already signs that the situation is becoming untenable.

She said fear is openly being expressed by fellow health workers as the prospects for contagion grow with each passing day.

“While Government did some things right early on, I now feel that as a country, we have lost the plot and because of that, as a nurse, I am worried,” Brown said.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Dunstan Bryan, when contacted, referred The Gleaner to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie.

Attempts to get a comment on the matter from the CMO also proved futile, as it was said that she was engaged in a meeting.


Speaking to Radio Jamaica News, President of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) Carmen Johnson said that nurses have expressed fear of burnout, as pressure builds in dealing with the spike in COVID-19 cases among other routine duties.

Johnson said she is concerned about the number of nurses being exposed to the virus. At present, the NAJ president said that 10 nurses have contracted the virus and more than 50 are now in quarantine. She noted that it is affecting the delivery of service in the public health system.

“Our biggest challenge is the exposure of our nurses and other health workers because we are aware that persons are coming into the facilities who did not come in for COVID-19, but end up being COVID-19-positive,” said Johnson.

In recent weeks, St Catherine, Kingston and St Andrew, St Thomas and Clarendon have borne the brunt of the latest spike, prompting Prime Minister Andrew Holness to revise curfew hours in those parishes.

Georgette Bryce (name also changed), who has spent 13 years working in the primary health sector in Clarendon, spoke of being afraid to go to work.

“Sometimes I just do not want to go to work. I am so afraid, because I have a really bad asthma situation and my daughter, who is four, now has a respiratory illness,” Bryce said.