Ferguson calls for fairness, equity in care package handouts

Ferguson calls for fairness, equity in care package handouts


Sunday, August 09, 2020

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Member of Parliament for St Thomas Eastern Dr Fenton Ferguson has called for fairness, equity and transparency in the distribution of food packages in sections of the constituency now placed under lockdown due to a rapid spike in COVID-19 cases.

Dr Ferguson told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that although he admired the manner in which food packages were readily available by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security on the first day of lockdown, “in many of these operations, the devil is always in the detail”.

He emphasised, too, that based upon previous situations, it was critical to prevent hunger, so there was a special need for the provision of food, what with the now limited movement imposed on the people of the affected areas.

The Government placed sections of St Thomas under quarantine last Thursday, following a spike in COVID-19 cases, including 28 in four days, for an overall count of 31 in the parish. Among the areas affected are Church Corner, Summit, and Bamboo River in the region of the parish capital, Morant Bay. The period of quarantine is 14 days.

The Sandy Bay community in Clarendon South East was also placed under a 14-day quarantine, following a spike in that area too. The death of a woman, aged 88, was confirmed on Friday, pushing Jamaica's fatalities from the pandemic to 13, and close to 950 positive cases since March.

Six-time MP Dr Ferguson also underlined other measures that must be put in place in order to deal, effectively, with the situation.

“Resources must be found to procure personal protective equipment, and there is a need for additional manpower at the Princess Margaret Hospital, as 12 members of staff of the institution have been quarantined. With those staff members being sent off, it is critical now for the parish and the region to have replacements. You also want to ensure that you have the necessary State support, in terms of overtime, etc. The whole thing is time sensitive.

“There must be quick testing of persons and ensuring quick turnaround in terms of results. There is also a need for ventilators and ICU (intensive care unit) beds would also be required. The Jamaican people cannot bear a massive community spread with the demands for ICU beds and overwhelmed health facilities. Let us not squander the gains made. This demands that no one underestimates the pandemic or overstates the achievements made by the effort and sacrifice of the Jamaican people up to this point,” Dr Ferguson said.

The large number of hospitalisations that has emerged in the second wave of the pandemic was also highlighted as a concern by the veteran MP and former minister of health; as well as labour and social security.

“The Government must be careful this time, even though it may appear that it did well in the first phase of the pandemic. Once you begin to see hospitalisation, that's where issues of death and other health situations come in. Patients who have underlying conditions like diabetes and hypertension are especially at risk. At the same time, there needs to be patience, and sensitivity on the part of the security forces in allowing people access to medication, whether from the hospital or private pharmacies, as that too could bring about death.

“Let us reduce the focus on activities that require mass gatherings whether campaigns or conventions at this time. Let us return to public health priorities of widespread testing, especially at our ports of entry, and let us renew the public health message about social distancing, hand washing and the mandatory wearing of mask in public and generally in enclosed spaces,” Dr Ferguson pleaded.

“The folklore and proverb that says when climbing a hill do not throw your stick until you are finishing climbing is timely. There are more hills to climb in order to overcome and contain the coronavirus. Let us keep our sticks firmly in our hands,” he concluded.

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