Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr. Michael Abrahams, says he is lamenting the happy-go-lucky way in which the Government of Jamaica has been handling the management of the COVID-19 virus since the staging of the General Elections.
“I am uncomfortable,” Dr. Abrahams wrote in a Gleaner column this morning. “When COVID-19 reared its ugly head and was threatening to evolve into a global pandemic, I thought our Government and our Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) did a great job preparing us for its impact.”
He said the proactive stance taken by the Government at the onset with the public education programme using channels such as public service announcements, physical flyers warning us about the inevitable and informing the nation how to protect itself, was highly commendable.
However, he said that following the reopening of the island’s borders, the authorities became less than vigilant. Movement during Emancipation and Independence Days being poorly restricted, and the indiscipline of some Jamaican nationals, he said, “ushered in a new wave of cases”.
Dr. Abrahams said another cause for concern by many health professionals, was the election date announcement, which came at a time when the number of cases were increasing. In fact, he said he is highly disturbed by the reticence of the Government since the election, as they have even ceased the regular press briefings at a time when, an increase in communication with the authorities is needed.
“It seems that not enough was done to protect us….The optics are not good. To announce community spread immediately after the election and discontinue regular press briefings while more deaths are being reported leaves me very concerned. It appears to me that the Government and the MOHW have shifted their response to the epidemic by 180 degrees,” he stated.
He said while there “may have been rational arguments for it to be held then”, the Government failed to instruct citizens to avoid congregating on nomination day, resulting in droves of supporters of both parties came out, while ignoring social distancing and mask-wearing protocols. He said by the time restrictions were announced for motorcades, it was just too late.
“Then on the day after the election, less than 24 hours after the Jamaica Labour Party was declared the winner, the MOHW formally announced that the country is now in the community spread phase of the pandemic, providing charts, graphs and data,” he said.
“In my opinion, the timing of the announcement smacked of disingenuity. They must have known this before,” he added. The way I see it, this declaration at this time was questioning our intelligence and also exposed the recklessness with which the pandemic was dealt with in the period leading up to the election.”
He said with 33 percent of COVID-19 deaths being reported just over the last week Jamaica seems to be experiencing an exponential rise.
“We have failed to flatten the curve, and, as a result, more people are dying. The minister of health announced that ‘based on our modelling’, 1.5 million people are expected to contract the virus. If the death rate is, say, as low as one per cent, at least 15,000 Jamaicans are expected to die,” he added.
Even with this low estimate, he said, if the fatality rate approaches 15,000, there are likely to be thousands of people who will need ventilators and intensive care unit support who will not be able to get it, as the country not only does not have enough ventilators, but is short of staff to manage them.
“We already have a chronic nursing shortage, and with cases now rising, more and more medical personnel, including nurses, are testing positive and being temporarily removed from the system,” he said.
He said his colleagues in the medical field, at present, feel as if they have no protection against the virus, but are left to languish like “sitting ducks”.
Another grave concern, Anrahams said, was that in the face of rising cases, reportedly less people are now being tested by the Health Ministy.
“I have been informed that more kits are needed, but whatever the reason is, it is not good. How can less testing at a time like this be acceptable?” he questioned.