COVID scare

COVID scare

• More than 50% of private nursing homes ignoring safety protocols • Health authorities to enforce measures

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, October 22, 2020

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The island's public health officials will be breathing down the necks of privately run nursing homes after it emerged that more than 50 per cent of them are non-compliant with sanitisation protocols and other requirements to prevent a possible spread of COVID-19.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton made the revelation to the Jamaica Observer yesterday as the health authorities sought to deal with 43 cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff at the quasi-government Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, St Andrew.

The Observer sought Dr Tufton's reaction to a report that COVID-positive cases had been discovered at a privately run nursing home in Manchester. He was unable to speak to the specifics of that situation, but said the status of these kinds of entities — a number of which are unregistered — was far from satisfactory.

“We do anticipate that we will get a few of these cases, but what we want to do is minimise them as best as possible. Private homes are required to register and I have asked the public health inspectors working with our agencies to inspect all of them,” Dr Tufton told the Observer, noting that the unregistered will not be allowed to escape enforcement measures.

“We have inspected 206 of these nursing home facilities and 15 infirmaries. Some have had issues and we have pushed for those issues to be addressed,” Dr Tufton said.

Asked to describe the issues discovered he said, in relation to “the protocols that we have in place we assess against whether or not they have enough sanitisation stations, whether or not the staff have their protective gear, whether or not they do temperature checks, there is a no-visitor policy right now, all the things that are a part of the protocol are what we check against, and if we find that there are any gaps we would write them up”.

“Just over 50 per cent were below par, required work, but it has been an ongoing effort in that once we inspect and assess and recommend then we keep following up and checking back until they put those measures in place. Unfortunately, not all of them are officially registered, because when this started back in January a number of them were not registered,” he told the Observer, even while noting that the health and wellness ministry could not order the renegade entities closed.

“I had, however, insisted that they all put in place the infection control measures, whether they were registered or not, and that they ensure that they all were given a timeline to implement. The challenge we were having is, if you shut them down, where do you put the people who are there, because we have no infirmaries to hold them. Many of them have nowhere else to go, so the decision was taken to work with them, as opposed to shutting them down. But, of course, that comes with its own risk too, and so the public health team has been on them to get compliance,” Dr Tufton told the Observer.

He, however, said he was not in a position to give numbers in relation to those who were taking the precautions issued.

In the meantime, Tufton pledged to assess the situation at the Manchester entity where reportedly 10 individuals have so far tested positive for COVID-19 with at least one death suspected to have been as a result of the coronavirus.

Concerns have also been raised that the entity was far from compliant with the sanitisation protocols and other requirements laid down by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“If those precautions were not being taken, I think it is important that the management takes the steps to deal with them. The truth is, if people are there that are positive, they should be in isolation; they need specialist care. I will check on it and see what is happening, but there should have been a protocol in place,” Dr Tufton said, noting that the case would not have been brought to his attention unless it was of the magnitude of the one at Golden Age Home.

Up to yesterday, Jamaica had recorded 71 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases since March to 8,445. The country also recorded 14 new patient recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries since March to 4,016.

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