Some 14 Tobago healthcare workers who are directly interfacing with COVID-19 positive patients are currently being housed at an undisclosed facility at Signal Hill, according to Medical Chief of Staff Dr Victor Wheeler.
During a tour of new isolation units at the Scarborough general Hospital on Friday, however, Wheeler said this is being done because the current situation has been emotionally taxing for many doctors and nurses because they are unable to tangibly interact with their loved ones when they return to their homes and in some instances, there are some individuals who are even unable to return home because of discrimination.
“In a couple cases their family put them out, which I can’t understand that. In one case it was an elderly relative, but I have a difficulty in accepting that, because really and truly staff are still afraid, but they are seeing that efforts are being done for their safety and are actually much more comfortable in the environment,” Wheeler said of the reason for putting up the workers at the facility until the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Wheeler admitted that initially, there was poor communication between management and the staff in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic but said efforts are being made to remedy the situation.
“Those who were directly affected are either self-isolating at home and one or two are in that facility (Signal Hill) and we also have Rovanel’s and Canoe Bay. And knowing the plans that we have in place for those exposed and advising them of it has helped calm things down quite a bit, so this is being done to let you know we are taking serious efforts ... communication, which was not really at its best at the beginning, that was really the gist of the problem,” he said.
Although the doctors and nurses are being housed at the facility at the expense of the Tobago House of Assembly, when asked about a hazard allowance for frontline medical staff during the COVID-19 crisis at a news conference last week, Wheeler said that scenario was not catered for in the healthcare workers’ contractual agreement
“That is not part of the terms and conditions that we have and I don’t know. That is something that maybe the union, because the healthcare worker is represented by a union and I haven’t seen it come up as a separate issue,” he said then.
As of yesterday at 4 pm, 66 samples from Tobago had been submitted to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) laboratory for testing and three of them were positive while the island has not recorded any deaths. Some 13 people have also completed their quarantine and there are 49 individuals still in quarantine.