JAMAICA | Opposition Leader outlines steps to manage COVID-19 crisis

JAMAICA | Opposition Leader outlines steps to manage COVID-19 crisis

KINGSTON, Jamaica August 31, 2021 - As Jamaica continues to experiences sharpe rises in hospitalizations and additional COVID-19 related deaths,  Opposition Leader Mark Golding has outlined a series of proposals aimed at cauterising and managing Jamaica’s COVID-19 crisis that threatens to overwhelm the island’s healthcare system.

In a national broadcast on Tuesday night, Mr. Golding said It was “clear that our healthcare system has reached a breaking point. The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed our health system and has caused a deep crisis of death and despair in our society.”

“The more contagious and more deadly Delta variant has caused a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, to levels never before seen in Jamaica. Over the past three days, we recorded 2,397 new cases, with the positivity rate averaging about 50%. While deaths typically lag behind recorded cases, 27 deaths were recorded over the two days, and we have been regularly recording double digit deaths for several days now,” Mr. Golding lamented.

“Those needing critical and intensive care have risen exponentially in recent weeks. Our healthcare workers are crying out for help. Our hospitals are overrun and under-resourced,” he observed and pointed out that “If we fail to act now, we risk somber and terrifying days ahead.”

“We have seen photographs of patients lying on mattresses on the hospital floors. We are told that manual “bag valve masks” have had to be used by medical staff for prolonged periods to enable patients to breathe, where oxygen has run out. Many have suffered, and some have died, in these dire conditions,” Golding noted.

The Opposition leader has put forward a number of  “suggestions that we wish to put forward, which will help to manage our way through this terrible crisis better:

  • A high-level public/private sector committee should be tasked with governance of the procurement of oxygen supplies and the logistics of oxygen delivery, with a clear mandate to plan ahead to ensure that we never again run short of oxygen in our hospitals.
  • Oxygen generators should be brought into Jamaica on an emergency basis, to avoid shortages in this critical life-sustainer in the fight against what is primarily a respiratory disease. Oxygen generators will reduce the reliance on bulk oxygen and cylinders provided by the single existing supplier.
  • Equipment that can test for variants must also be prioritized for purchase and deployment, as it is taking too long to get test results from samples that have to be sent overseas.
  • Health care workers are the most at-risk, and the nation is depending on them to care for our citizens who fall sick. We are recommending that each parish has a dedicated healthcare staff facility, to ensure that they are looked after well and promptly if they fall ill while serving on the frontlines of the pandemic.
  • Those vaccines which require less infrastructure for storage should be made available to private medical facilities to vaccinate their patients, with counselling from their trusted doctors. This will assist Jamaica to get on track towards achieving a high level of vaccination.
  • There are very real challenges in many vulnerable persons getting vaccinated as a result of transportation costs and rural logistics. Vaccination blitz sites are out of the reach of many ordinary citizens. We again call for more community facilities to be used as vaccination centres, supplemented by the deployment of mobile units to visit these communities and increase the vaccine uptake.
  • The efforts to vaccinate the too-often overlooked community of persons with disabilities has been inadequate. Mobile units should be used for the purpose of taking vaccines to persons with disabilities and those who are otherwise unable to travel.
  • The control of our borders, in particular our airports, is ineffective. The quarantine rules are not being properly monitored for compliance. Covid testing upon arrival and follow up by the public health system should be rigorously enforced.
  • With our healthcare system crumbling, it is time to insist that all visitors to our shores are vaccinated. We have to protect our citizens and our country as we fight to get out of this crisis.

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