Last update: 13-Dec-2013 3:20 am
Friday, December 13, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Browne, Fuad at odds over swine flu
While Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has assured the public that health facilities are ready to deal with the H1N1 virus (swine flu) should there be an influx of cases, MP for Diego Martin Central, Dr Amery Browne, says Khan has completely messed up the protocols to deal with such scenarios and should come clean with the people of T&T. In a news release on Friday, Browne accused Khan of creating further chaos by advising the population to visit their health centres for vaccination against the “swine flu virus,” while knowing many of these institutions either did not have any stock or not enough of the vaccine. “With these ongoing failings, the population must be amazed at the lack of proper leadership in the health sector and the nation as a whole,” Browne said. “Given the total lack of confidence in the Minister of Health, it is very difficult to justify his continuation at the head of this important ministry and sector.” He said Khan had resumed his habit of making confusing statements to the media on matters that critically affect the nation’s health system.
Browne said the population has been struggling with a horrific lack of quality care at many public health institutions and the tardiness of medical service continues to result in unnecessary loss of life. He said Khan’s poor performance has helped to reinforce the reality that the health sector is at an all-time low in T&T. Referring to the recent thefts at San Fernando General Hospital, Browne said the hospital has been one institution among many that has had repeated thefts, and obviously proper security arrangements should have long been put in place, at least after the recent disappearance of an ultrasound machine. He said he checked on Friday with staff at the Ward 17 Clinic at the SFGH, and while it is unlikely that any confidential medical data would be retrieved from the computers that were stolen last Thursday, the thieves could have had direct access to actual patient files and other information during the break-in. He said if Khan was serious about his responsibilities, he would take such incidents more seriously and put measures in place to halt this pattern of larceny and unauthorised access.
In a telephone interview, however, Khan said the health centres were sufficiently equipped with both medical personnel and medicine. He told the T&T Guardian the ministry was pushed into action with the swine flu cases which occurred in Barbados and confirmation of six local cases by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) laboratory. He also said they were still probing whether two deaths at the SFGH were related to swine flu. “We suspected that it was mostly likely as a result of the influenza. However, both patients had respiratory problems not connected to swine flu and one of the two patients was 63 years old, so further testing is being done,” Khan said. He said because the recent development of increased positive stereotypes, the ministry held a meeting last Thursday to determine exactly what was available with regards to vaccinations and also management for patients who were positive and negative for the flu. “We found out we have approximately 15,000 vaccines available and approximately 20,000 anti-viral medications. So we have asked the executive to distribute it to the various health centres according to incidence and need. And also to order more vaccines and anti-viral medications,” Khan said.
He reiterated that there should not be an overreaction, as was the case in 2009, because preventative methods are more important. “Simple things like washing your hands with soap and water, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing and maintaining social distance are preventative methods,” Khan said. He added that the distribution of vaccines and medications was being addressed and the ministry was also in the process of distributing swabs for investigative analysis. However, he said every citizen must not rush for swab testing either, but should monitor themselves closely to see if their symptoms truly match that of influenza A H1N1 virus. “You will know if you have the virus because you must have a sudden onset of a very high fever, shortness of breath, intense sore throat and people whose immune systems are not compromised will respond to the virus normally, so everyone does not have to rush to the health facilities,” he said. Reading an e-mail sent to him from the medical epidemiologist at the ministry, Dr Avery Hinds, Khan said Hinds said the Pan American Health Organization has assessed the current outbreak across the region and is happy with the preventative measures put in place and the methods of intervention. He said the message also stated that what is occurring is not unusual for this time of year for influenza and since T&T is a signatory to the international health regulations, there is no need for any travel restrictions.
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