Thu | May 28, 2020

Doctors beg J’cans to take COVID-19 threat seriously

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2020 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer
Several Jamaicans continue to disobey the social distancing guidelines set out by the Government. Persons are to keep a distance of three to six feet from each other in order to help stem the spread of COVID-19.
Jamaicans are encouraged to practice strict sanitisation protocols, including regular hand washing. Here, Patricia Williams makes use of one of three hand washing stations at the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston, yesterday.
Dr Elon Thompson, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association.
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Healthcare professionals at the frontline of the COVID-19 fight in Jamaica have issued a plea to their countrymen and women to treat with seriousness the measures implemented by the Government to stem the spread of the highly contagious virus – especially the practice of social distancing and strict sanitisation.

Since Jamaica confirmed its first case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on March 10, the Government has gradually put in place a number of stringent guidelines to contain it. However, many Jamaicans have been flouting the protocols, with several videos posted on social media depicting their defiance or nonchalant attitude. Additionally, several persons who are required to self-quarantine are not doing so.

The breaches have forced the Government to issue threats of hefty fines or jail time as in less than a month, Jamaica now has 55 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with three deaths. Seven persons have recovered.

Healthcare workers are imploring Jamaicans to abide by the guidelines put in place to keep them safe even as the bodies pile up across the globe. There are now approximately 1,159,515 confirmed cases worldwide and an estimated 62,375 deaths. Some 225,066 persons have recovered.

Without adhering to the guidelines, Jamaica could see its numbers spike rapidly, pressuring an already overburdened healthcare system, the professionals stressed.

“Inasmuch as the public has confidence in The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and the healthcare system, you, the public, have to understand that if you do not follow the guidelines issued, you run the risk of overwhelming the medical system in our country in its ability to deliver care to those who are infected or those who are ill. And an overwhelmed healthcare system is unable to deliver optimal care,” pleaded Medical Chief of Staff at The UHWI, Dr Carl Bruce.

“We are at the forefront of fighting this disease. We know that people worldwide are going to get infected in this pandemic because we don’t have immunity or a vaccine. But if we can control the rate of infection in our country, then it allows us to take care of the patients, take care of the vulnerable, and it allows us to manage.”

According to Bruce, when orders for stay-at-home, social distancing, school closure, and recommended group numbers are given, they are done with the sole purpose of slowing the rate of infection.

He added, “And if you are ill, stay at home and call a doctor, and if you must see a doctor, wear a mask to protect the rest of the public.”

LAST LINE OF DEFENCE

Head of the Department of Medicine at The UHWI Professor Michael Boyne wanted the public to know that the healthcare workers, who are at the heart of the battle, were scared, too.

“I know you are scared, I know you are anxious. And guess what? We are also scared and anxious as health professionals because we are also humans like everybody else. We have our own families and health concerns and the uncertainties of the future,” was Boyne’s message.

“Together, as Jamaicans, we need to work together in this fight and take the necessary precautions to safeguard ourselves, families, and country.”

Continuing, he said: “I saw a video recently where it said healthcare workers were on the front line of the fight. I say no. We are the last line of defence. The front line is the community. This is a public-health problem. Public health means preventing an issue from coming. But if it comes, we are your last line of defence.”

Boyne is convinced that COVID-19 can be successfully treated, noting that “it is not the first time humankind has faced pandemics, and we are facing one now, like our friends and colleagues dealt with during Ebola, which is far more lethal, and they survived it. So we can survive this.”

BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL

Dr Elon Thompson, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA), which represents junior doctors, is also urging care and caution.

“The JMDA is encouraging persons to stay at home if it is at all possible. It is also important for persons to take seriously the advice given about good hygiene practices and physical distancing. This will allow front-line healthcare workers to better manage when the numbers of positive COVID-19 persons increase,” he said.

Dr Donald Gordon, president of the Association of General Practitioners of Jamaica, is also reinforcing the plea.

“We are encouraging all Jamaicans to obey the health ministry’s advice and to follow all government directives to stem the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he told Sunday Gleaner.

“Please follow the advice of social distancing, proper hygiene of handwashing and sanitation, avoiding unnecessary travel and social gathering. Individuals with underlying conditions should be extremely careful and continue to take their medication.”

On Friday, the Government extended the closure of Jamaica’s borders for another 14 days. Only cargo is allowed in and out of the country.

The island is also under a seven-day nightly curfew, from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. This remains in effect until April 8. Several sectors are exempt.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com