Ministry shining spotlight on Elderly Homes nationwide in COVID-19 fight

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, MOPH – The Ministry of Public Health has put the microscope on elderly homes throughout the country to help stave off any outbreak of the contagious and deadly coronavirus.

The MOPH Coordinator of Elderly Health, Dr. Melissa DeHaarte, said the Ministry’s COVID-19 Mobile Unit, has undertaken the national exercise and so far, the team has completed nine of the 18 homes officially documented in the Ministry’s registry in Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica).

Dr Melissa DeHaarte

Ministry of Public Health Coordinator of Elderly Health, Dr. Melissa DeHaarte

The mobile unit team is expected to complete the current exercise in the most populated of the 10 Administrative Regions shortly,

Dr. DeHaarte said that as part of the team’s duties, they will “interviews workers, caregivers and occupants and takes a detailed history of their travels and contacts,” to determine who will be tested for coronavirus if perchance someone might have been in contact with any COVID-19 positive patient.

The Palms Geriatric Home on Brickdam, in Georgetown, under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Protection (MOSP), is the only of the 21 Elderly Homes supported by the MOPH that has residents who have tested positive for the deadly virus.

In a media statement last Thursday, the MOSP said five residents – four males and one female – and a Patient Care Assistant (PCA) “have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus at the Palms Elderly Care Facility.”

“Regrettably, one male resident has died,” the MOSP statement said noting that its nine-point plan has managed to thwart a “possible threat of an outbreak,” at the government-managed facility.

“The Ministry of Social Protection assures the general public that (it) continues to be guided by the protocols established by the Ministry of Public Health and will continue to take steps necessary for the protection of residents, care personnel and staff at the Palms Elderly Care Facility,” the government statement assured.

Dr. DeHaarte said she has received “no messages stating positive test results so far,” from the other 20 Elderly Care institutions.

The gerontology specialist said the inspection team will scrutinise the remaining homes, all located in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) when they have completed examining the facilities in the capital and its environs.

Dr. DeHaarte is urging administrators of any existing elderly homes, not in the government’s official records, to ensure their institution are regularised to benefit from existing support packages. She said the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) is backing the 21 homes continue every month with support packages to help fight the coronavirus.

Recently, the CDC donated some 2,000 masks to the elderly institutions in their ongoing quest.

“We are doubling our efforts to visit, demonstrate and provide an explanation about the use of personal protective equipment (PPEs) including gloves and masks; how to sanitise surfaces and surrounding environment correctly,” and how to treat unclean clothing to prevent their likely contamination spreading in the home, Dr. DeHaarte said.

The Public Health Ministry has also teamed up with Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the fight against coronavirus overwhelming the vulnerable residents of these institutions.

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Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We urge citizens to practice good hygiene and social or physical distancing also adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, Guyana.