Mom, daughter buried same day
Family says they contracted COVID at hospitalMonday, October 18, 2021
BY HORACE MILLS
LLUIDAS VALE, St Catherine — A pall of gloom blanketed a section of this rural community on Thursday when residents, for the first time in recent memory, witnessed a single funeral being held for two relatives from the same household in their district.
Lucilda Bair, 94, and her 56-year-old daughter Beryl Junior, whose lives were snuffed out by complications associated with the novel coronavirus, were laid to rest beside each other in their family plot here at Top Hill district in the Lluidas Vale Division.
“We have never had this in the family,” declared Fitzroy Bennett, who stood near the snow-white caskets at the burial site to eulogise his cousins, whom he said were “perfect replica” of each other.
The two were outspoken, authoritative, kind, God-fearing, and were sticklers for a good education and enforcement of the law, Bennett told mourners, including Junior's four children who all dressed to fit the white-themed funeral.
Two of them, Stacey-Ann Lynch and Devon Junior, amid grief, called on Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton to take a closer look at operations at Spanish Town Hospital, where both Junior and Bair died last month.
The siblings, who claimed that the two matriarchs of their family had been brought to the hospital for non-COVID-19 complications, suspect that they contracted the virus there.
They told the Jamaica Observer that all members of their household, including Junior and Bair, recently tested negative for COVID-19 at a private doctor, whom they visited after coming down with flu-like symptoms.
Days after that Junior and Bair were taken to the hospital separately, and each made to undergo a COVID-19 test there.
While they waited days in the medical facility for the test results, they were exposed to a number of other patients — some of whom perhaps had the virus, the siblings argued.
They said the result showed that their grandmother, Bair, who did the COVID-19 test a day after she was admitted to the hospital, was positive for the virus.
The other result showed that Junior, who was tested the same day she went to the hospital, did not have COVID-19, the siblings said.
They claimed that they were never told that their mother, Junior, had COVID-19 until after she died.
“My mother went in the hospital for chest infection and asthma. She get tested and she was negative, and now she is COVID-positive,” Devon emphasised, while describing the cause of death as shocking.
His mother passed away on September 12, and his grandmother died 17 days after.
His sister, Lynch, accused Spanish Town Hospital of not properly separating patients immediately after they are admitted there. She proposed that rapid COVID-19 testing be done to facilitate separation as early as possible.
“Spanish Town Hospital needs to be dealt with properly,” Lynch said fuming, adding that a number of nurses and doctors there are “very rude”.
“I think Dr Tufton needs to address this thing, because a lot of people are losing their loved ones there at the hospital,” she added.
Her brother, Devon, chimed in: “I would like for someone to visit Spanish Town Hospital for at least two or three hours to see what's really going on there. The way they treat people, it's like we are not human beings; it is crazy and their customer service is very poor.”
In the meantime, Newton Amos, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) caretaker in St Catherine North Western, where the bereaved family lives, said he knew the late Junior “extremely well”.
She was a crucial member of his campaign team who lobbied relentlessly for improvement in her community, he told the Observer.
“Beryl was a very sweet, charming Jamaican woman. When I am in her presence I feel humbled, primarily by her knowledge of all the people in her community. In fact, she was my key JLP worker representative on the ground that advised me as to what is taking place on a daily basis. I relied on her for the kind of information that would allow me to make the right decisions from a community perspective,” added Amos, who attended the funeral.
He said that, in the last general election, Junior contributed significantly to the JLP winning all polling divisions in Top Hill district — an area that is usually controlled by the People's National Party.
“I have lost a very formidable person in the name of Beryl, and I am sure that my positioning in that [Top Hill] area is impaired with her passing,” Amos said. “I know that the entire community mourns the loss, and we will do everything in our power to support the bereaved family.”