Maintain professionalism in the face of challenges

– RHS Deputy-Director counsels health sector officials

GEORGETOWN, MOPH – While health workers face occupational burnout, fatigue, stigma or physical and psychological violence they must always main their professionalism and never mistreat parents, cautioned Dr Veronica Griffith, Deputy-Director of Regional and Clinical Services (RHS).

Speaking at Tuesday’s one-day symposium for Regional Health and Executive Officers (RHOs and REOs) and top Municipal officials, Dr Griffith said despite currently working under increasing pressure because of global COVID-19 outbreak, local health workers must, nevertheless, “treat patients with respect, compassion and dignity (and) maintain patient confidentiality.”

Dr Veronica Griffith

Dr Veronica Griffith, Deputy-Director of Regional and Clinical Services (RHS) addressing participant at the one-day seminar on COVID-19.

The one-day seminar organised by the Ministry of Public Health was held to help increase awareness and response capabilities of RHOs, REOs and heads of Municipalities to the new strain of the Coronavirus sweeping the globe.

So far, four persons have tested positive for the virus in Guyana. A 52-year old overseas-based returning Guyanese female is the only person to have died here as a result of the disease. Three of her family members – husband and two sons have also tested positive late last week for COVID-19.

Local Ministry of Health officials are also trying to track down some 200 persons who have travelled on separate flights with the woman and her daughter who left JFK International Airport bound for the Cheddi Jagan in Guyana. Included in that figure too, are other family and community members who welcomed their arrival in Georgetown and otherwise fraternised with the arriving family in the week following their return in a village on the east coast corridor.

The Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) has been activated and members are meeting regularly to ensure continued coordination of the country’s response to the new strain of the virus.

In his remarks, Permanent Secretary Emil Mc Garrel, of the Ministry of Communities, told participants from the 10 Administrative Regions that “appropriate and adequate information is a key way to help in the response phase”.

Information sharing, through the MOPH and the HEOC, will be a buffer against officials “giving in to wild theses and innuendos. We are here to prepare to respond,” Mc Garrel counselled participants.

MOPH Permanent Secretary, Collette Adams highlighted the country’s multi-sectoral approach which she reasoned is “needed to protect all”.  Adams said the MOPH is working assiduously with all international partners to handle any case of COVID-19.

The MOPH in adherence to the Financial Management and Accountability Act has made the necessary request to the Ministry of Finance (MOF) considering Guyana is at a point in its financial year without a budget. The MOPH assures the nation that all COVID-19 related expenditure will be captured and brought to account at such time as there is a 2020 budget. All expenditures are sanctioned by the Ministers of Finance and Public Health.

Adams reminded officials to maintain strict financial accountability for money utilised as a part of the country’s response.

“We must account for every cent,” she told participating officers and also cautioned participants to ignore fake news, disinformation and other messages crafted that can if heeded, “put the entire country at more risk”.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Shamdeo Persaud provided a panoramic view of the global effects of COVID-19 telling those gathered that there is now “more deaths outside of China” where the virus originated.

The USA, Canada, Brazil and Chile are the hardest hit in that order in the Region of the Americas. In descending order in the Caribbean, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and St Bartholomew make up countries that have so far recorded COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Persaud highlighted port surveillance; home and facilities isolation; case finding and early detection and contact tracing and follow-ups and strategies to help interrupt person to person transmission. Among the CMO’s menu of recommendations included closing borders, suspension of conveyance, which is preventing airlines, vessels and vehicles from entering the country, social distancing and limiting private and public gatherings.

In his presentation, the CMO counselled that where there are clusters of cases and local transmission there should be public health policies including control measures, government orders and quarantine. He also said there must also be “coordination and collaboration on technical guidance and support for preparedness and response for fragile and vulnerable populations.

All participants must school their charges in the 10 Regions to follow established occupational safety and health procedures; avoid exposing others to health and safety risks; and participate in employer-provided occupational safety and health (OSH) training.

In the fight against COVID-19, health officials and municipal workers must also follow established public health reporting procedures of suspected and confirmed cases and “provide or reinforce accurate infection prevention and control and public health information, including concerned people who have neither symptoms nor risk,” Dr Griffith said.