Former Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence is not impressed with the new government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, pointing out that instead of building on the gains made under the last government, the PPP government has only worsened the situation by changing many of the policies.
During an online interview with Capitol News, Lawrence raised particular concern about the government’s policy to allow home isolation of positive cases.
Based on the latest data released by the Ministry of Health on September 25, of the current 1104 positive cases in Guyana, 872 of those persons are in home isolation.
Ms. Lawrence said she believes the home isolation of positive cases policy is responsible for the spread and surge in new cases.
“It is my own belief that having over 500 and something persons on home isolation, is adding to the numbers and surge that we are seeing in the COVID cases in Guyana”, Lawrence said.
Just after taking office in August, the new government launched a massive coronavirus testing campaign across the country.
While the widespread testing found hundreds of new cases, there were no facilities to accommodate the large number of positive cases, so a decision was taken to allow those without symptoms to isolate themselves at home.
Health officials are expected to make regular checks with those in home isolation, but there is no regular monitoring to ensure they stay at home and isolated.
Under the previous government, all positive cases were isolated in a government facility until they were declared free of the disease.
The former Minister believes the government must get on with the furnishing and full preparation of the Infectious Diseases Hospital to accommodate positive cases rather than to have persons in home isolation.
The PPP Civic administration has described the new Infectious Diseases Hospital at the former Ocean View hotel as a “shell” and has set aside more than $700 million in the budget to complete it and make it fully operational.
Lawrence said the government can call the new hospital whatever it wants, but she said it is a facility that was built and prepared for COVID-19 cases.
She reminded that the Health Ministry under her watch was limited with the amount of work it could have completed with the facility because of the absence of a budget.
“If you want to call it a shell, then so be it but that hospital was built and as you know we did not have a budget at that time and it was built on emergency funds and most of it was the 1/12 that we would have gotten from the Ministry of Finance and we did have a plan in terms of how we are going to go forward with furnishing that hospital”, the former Minister said.
She explained that there was a list that was already prepared with the Pan American Health Organisation in Guyana being nominated by the Ministry of Public Health to deal with all donations from UN agencies or any private agency. According to Lawrence, over US$100,000 was placed in the PAHO coffers and that money was going to be used to furnish and equip the new hospital with the national budget adding the remainder that was needed.
The former Health Minister believes that if the government had continued along with many of the policies that were put in place by its predecessor, the country would have been managing the pandemic better.
She said she is very concerned about the high number of COVID-19 related deaths. The country has so far recorded 76 deaths with 56 of those being recorded in the past two months while the first four months of the pandemic in Guyana saw 20 deaths.
Lawrence said more information ought to be provided on the deaths and the government should also continue to use doctors and other medical professionals to speak directly to those persons in the high-risk groups, as was done daily via video updates under her watch. Those video updates with the health professionals have been discontinued by the government.
“We had all of the experts on all of the diseases, they came and they spoke and they give directives to those persons who may have those illnesses and told them how to protect themselves…we also ensured that the persons who were infected, persons knew where those clusters were, but we are not getting that now, all we are getting is information that says so many persons have tested posted for today and x persons have died”.
According to the former Public Health Minister, the PPP Civic administration must realise that there is no politics when it comes to health, adding that the new government has clearly infused politics into its response to the pandemic by ignoring the plans and programmes that were put in place by the previous government to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Guyana.
She reminded that a National COVID-19 plan was developed and left in place.
Based on what she is seeing now, Lawrence said it is clear that the plan is being ignored while the plan that the PPP spoke about putting together while it was in opposition cannot be found now that it is in government.
“Health is not about playing politics and if they were serious, they would have looked at the plan we left, see what was working, build on it and add to what was not working…I have not seen a plan, I have not heard a plan, I have heard lots of condemnation of what we did prior to the PPP taking office and that is very sad”, Ms. Lawrence said.