What have we learnt since COVID-19 pandemic?Sunday, August 29, 2021
Much has been said about the management of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic by the Government of Jamaica. And, the nation has not been coy in giving its own scorecard of Captain Andrew Holness, our prime minister, and his lieutenant, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton. But, any fair assessment of their performance must include looking at what they have learnt and, as a result, implemented over the last year and half to bolster the efficacy of the efforts.
We in this space have explored at length the school of thought that success follows forward planning, and have offered more than moral suasion to encourage the Administration to being more proactive and managing by objectives. Still, we have not seen the decisive shift to this end.
Fresh in our thinking has been the nation's state of readiness with requisite levels of oxygen to manage this long-in-coming third wave of the novel coronavirus. We have seen where reorder schedules, storage capacity, and access points to patients have buckled under previous spikes, but still this more recent wave has exposed similar levels of deficiencies.
What did the Government, and more specifically the health administrators, do with the knowledge garnered from previous spikes? Why, as a nation, are we still behind the eight ball?
Latest reports place the number of novel coronavirus infections confirmed locally by testing at just under 66,000, with Kingston and St Andrew accounting for 17,111 cases. But the cries of resource shortage at what is arguably the country's largest hospital, if not the English-speaking Caribbean's largest — Kingston Public Hospital — are growing in intensity.
Stories reaching our newsroom indicate that the COVID-19 facilities there have long burst their seams and the enduring staff have long been suffering burnout. What has been learnt? What have we done with the knowledge?
The Ministry of Health and Wellness ought to be presenting disaggregated information by hospital to rate the success of the protocols in effect, and to note whether or not the allocation of resources has truly been commensurate with need.
How many have died at KPH? What of reports that the infected and non-infected are sharing more than pathways at that facility? How anecdotal are the reports that individuals enter KPH with negative coronavirus results and contract it within its walls?
We have heard that there is The University of the West Indies (UWI) COVID-19 Task Force, with clinical and ethical experts, and we dare not suggest another, but surely the need for an over-arching panel of implementers of best practices and informed methodologies stares us in the face. There is yet to be seen implementation from the meeting of the minds in these think tanks, or whatever else the academicians call them.
It is impatient of debate that the island had an inadequate and ailing public health system before the novel coronavirus pandemic started making headlines, but the knowledge we have gained thus far has not manifested into infrastructural strengthening when we still have unemployed medical personnel and shortages of personal protective equipment. Talk of a 15th parish without the erection of a Type A hospital is but an aggregation of hot air and spittle.
We posit that there has truly been no greater time than now to direct resources at strengthening the entire public health system. As well, we note there has never been a time in which resources have been so available — whether financial or otherwise — than the present.
We might not vanquish COVID-19 with a mighty stroke, but certainly the offence mounted after so long in the battlefield must benefit from what military people call intelligence.
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