Caroni East MP Rishad Seecharan wants to know why the Health Ministry is seeking to recruit an independent consultant to assess its responses to the COVID-19 pandemic when a committee already submitted a detailed report on the standard of care of COVID-19 patients last year.
He raised the question during a United National Congress press conference yesterday.
“We have been told that the Ministry of Health is in the process of recruiting an independent consultant to assess its response to COVID-19. This consultant will assess the ministry’s response to the public health emergency of International concern COVID-19 and to make recommendations to inform the ministry’s response to future pandemics,” Seecharan said.
Last January, Seemungal led a five-man committee to review the operations of healthcare facilities, in light of criticism in some quarters that substandard care was contributing to the large number of COVID-19 deaths in the country.
Coming out of the committee’s investigations a 105-page report was compiled and 16 recommendations were put forward which included proper data management systems and the urgent need for electronic medical records.
Seemungal and his team told the nation of staff shortages and burnout.
“So why are we doing this right now... don’t we have professor Seemungal’s report to deal with first?” Seecharan asked
“We hope this is not another attempt by the Rowley administration to sanitise its failures in managing the COVID-19 pandemic over the last three years.”
Seecharan also commented about the increase in COVID-19 cases following Carnival, pointing out there were “559 new cases recorded between February 22 and 28. The seven-day rolling average has also skyrocketed to 80 cases a day.”
This figure, he said represents the highest jump in cases since October 2022.
This year, there were 58 COVID-19 deaths.
“Many people are also self-medicating thus clouding the actual numbers of cases in the country with over-the-counter medication. Without a doubt, hundreds more are COVID-19-positive with little or no symptoms. Private laboratories are also reporting an increase in people seeking COVID-19 tests and are reporting an increased positivity in test results,” he said
The Opposition MP said Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh should have put measures in place to address these problems prior to Carnival.
He said free COVID-19 tests should have been distributed to people during the two days of festivities.
After 4,347 COVID-19 deaths, Seecharan said Deyalsingh seems incapable of managing the pandemic and T&T is near the bottom of the list of countries in managing COVID-19 cases.
“We are ranked 178 out of 200 countries,” he said.