Tue | Mar 2, 2021

TOUGH SANCTIONS LOOM - Comply with COVID protocols or else, says Gov’t to healthcare operators

Published:Wednesday | November 4, 2020 | 12:18 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
A sister walks towards the Mary Queen of Peace Missionaries of the Poor building at Tower Street, Kingston, on Monday. Charities run by the Catholic group have been hit by more than 160 cases of the coronavirus.
A sister walks towards the Mary Queen of Peace Missionaries of the Poor building at Tower Street, Kingston, on Monday. Charities run by the Catholic group have been hit by more than 160 cases of the coronavirus.

The Government has issued a strong warning to owners and operators of residential healthcare facilities that failure to comply with regulations and protocols related to COVID-19 by month end will result in prosecutions, closures, and fines amounting to $1 million.

“The Government has the responsibility to take the strongest action where those basic arrangements are not in place,” Dr Christopher Tufton, the health and wellness minister, declared in a statement to the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Tufton told his parliamentary colleagues that if the healthcare facilities fail to comply by November 30, operators will be sanctioned under the Public Health Act or the Disaster Risk Management Orders.

“We have done remarkably well under the circumstances. We cannot afford to continue to tempt fate and take risks.”

The ministry has developed a protocol for environmental considerations for nursing homes and residential facilities as well as a checklist for healthcare institutions and a self-assessment tool for public facilities and workplaces.

In his presentation, Tufton also revealed that another 88 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at seven facilities operated by Missionaries of the Poor, including one of its monasteries.

He said that the latest COVID-19 cases at Missionaries of the Poor were discovered after the ministry tested 358 samples at seven facilities. He told his parliamentary colleagues on Tuesday that 220 of the samples were negative, while the ministry is awaiting the outcome of another 50.

On Sunday, the ministry reported a cluster of COVID-19 cases at a facility run by Missionaries of the Poor.

The ministry had tested 125 persons and 74 were found to be positive, including six members if staff. Forty-six persons were tested negative, while five results are pending.

The Father Ho Lung-founded Missionaries of the Poor, which provides assistance to the poor, was also encouraged to adhere to the recommendation of “no one in and no one out, as well as strict adherence to the no-visitor policy”.

Secretary General Brother Roche Tulalian told The Gleaner on Tuesday that Missionaries of the Poor was in need of more protective gear and disposable food containers as they continue to care for the dispossessed while also battling COVID-19 cases at their facilities.

A cluster of cases were discovered recently at a golden age home in Vineyard Town. Tests conducted on 620 residents and members of staff found that 87 were positive for COVID-19, while 533 were negative. The 87 positive cases included 65 residents and 22 staff members.

Jamaica’s coronavirus infections inched closer to 9,300 on Monday amid four additional deaths that carried fatalities to 214.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com