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#JamaicaTogether | COVID-19: A turning point for healthcare

Published:Sunday | June 14, 2020 | 12:07 AMJudana Murphy - Gleaner Writer
Dr Alfred Dawes, medical director of Windsor Wellness Centre and Carivia Medical Ltd
Dr Alfred Dawes, medical director of Windsor Wellness Centre and Carivia Medical Ltd

The COVID-19 pandemic has “dramatically altered” the practice of medicine locally, and at least one medical practitioner is hoping these changes will be permanent.

Dr Alfred Dawes, one of Jamaica’s leading surgeons, said the most radical change the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has brought about is greater consideration to telehealthcare.

“We are now realising that for follow-ups where we don’t physically need to lay hands on the patient, we can administer questionnaires, take a proper look at the patient’s history and check out the post-operative period or the post-treatment improvements via video consultations,” explained the medical director of Windsor Wellness Centre and Carivia Medical Ltd.

Further, “In collecting drugs and results from pharmacies and labs, we are seeing where we can have a system in place where not everyone has to be out there physically in a long line but we can do them by appointments and in batches. We have to continue these practices because the convenience of it for the staff as well as the patient is tremendous.”

Before the pandemic, getting staff to wear masks, even in operating theatres, used to be a ‘chore’. But Dawes revealed that now healthcare staff at all levels are taking no risks and the use of personal protective equipment has become more prevalent.

He also shared that healthcare workers are now a lot more cognisant of the fact that attention needs to be paid to rigorous sanitisation and the type of cleaning solutions that are utilised.

“Right now, we are adhering to cleaning schedules, and even the servicing of AC units with filter replacements are more commonly done now than before,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

Playing his part in the fight against COVID-19, Dawes, who is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a former senior medical officer of the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital, has been actively involved in education campaigns about the virus, both in the public and private sectors, through demonstrations and lectures.

He has also been utilising social and mainstream media to disseminate useful information about the dreaded disease.


In April, Dawes, who is also a former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, shared with the world findings of his research into creating salt filters for neutralising COVID-19.

The idea is to utilise the simplest of materials found around the home, such as coffee filters, toilet tissue or paper napkins, to develop a non-porous filter that when soaked in a hot table salt solution, dried, and worn beneath a cloth mask, stops the virus in its tracks.

“How it works is that as the salt crystals reform during drying, the sharp edges basically cut through the covering of the virus, on contact, like small knives, killing them in about half an hour,” the general and laparoscopic surgeon noted.

He has been getting calls from around the world from researchers to medical practitioners to government officials, entrepreneurs and average citizens, enquiring about the salt filters, and he has also assisted local entrepreneurs to create soakable filters.

Going forward, greater research efforts will be put into proving the efficacy of the salt filters, he stated.

Dawes is urging everyone to maintain handwashing and sanitising regimes, practising social distancing, as well as the wearing of mask in public to guard not only against COVID-19 but other ailments.

To Jamaicans, he said: “Don’t take anything for granted. We are seeing a lull in the number of new coronavirus cases and we have been fortunate in that we have not had a lot of deaths or persons being critically ill, but do not let your guard down; continue to be vigilant.”