CMO: Covid19 monitoring to be improved

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Roshan Parasram has made another appeal to people to be vaccinated and continue wearing masks amid the surge in covid19 cases and deaths. – FILE PHOTO/ANGELO MARCELLE

CHIEF Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram has said the Health Ministry is looking at ways to improve covid19 surveillance and monitoring. He made this comment during the virtual health news conference on Wednesday.

On Principal Medical Officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards’s earlier warning of over 900 covid19 patients in the parallel health care system and the traditional accident and emergency (A&E) departments, and rising number of hospital admissions, Parasram said, “We understand that there is an issue. I think this is the largest number of cases we would have had, in terms of active spread, at any one time.”

Explaining that county medical officers of health (CMOHs) monitor covid19 cases in their respective jurisdictions, Parasram said, “The numbers are really quite large, in terms of what they have to monitor. Most of the CMOHs’ offices, he continued, have between four and five people who monitor covid19 cases.

“Through the Ministry of Health, we are trying to get additional staff in place to assist with that backlog.”

Priority, he continued, will be placed on monitoring people with co-morbidities and older people.

He also said, “We are asking the population to assist us as much as they can.”

Should people become ill and their symptoms worsen, Parasram advised them to call the ministry’s 877 covid19 number or visit the A&E department as soon as possible.

On the ministry’s covid19 testing and surveillance policy, he said, “Generally speaking, we have used the same sort of approach throughout the pandemic, where we would have tested cases who are symptomatic for any particular disease.

“So the testing regime is generally if you have symptoms, you present to any of the facilities, you will be tested for covid19.”

He also observed that outside of the public sector, people are getting tests for covid19 as they seek to travel overseas. Some asymptomatic spread has been detected in some of these cases.

People with covid19 symptoms who come to the primary health care system, including the A&E side of it, are tested for the virus.

“Those with severe symptoms are fast-tracked by something we call a gene expert test, so you get the turnaround very fast.”

Where to get covid19 tests

The ministry has designated the Pleasantville, Siparia, Mayaro, Sangre Grande, Chaguanas, St Joseph, El Socorro and St James district health facilities as covid19 community testing sites.

People who come to these centres with symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, headache, redness of eyes, loss of taste and smell, or a combination of any of these symptoms, are eligible for testing at these sites.

The ministry said asymptomatic people (or people without symptoms) will not be tested at these sites. This also applies to people seeking to be tested for pre-delivery screening (for pregnant women), pre-surgical screening and screening before repatriation.

Members of the public are advised to contact the CMOH’s office in their area for further details of covid19 testing. The ministry also advised that if covid19 testing is refused for any reason, other than what has been outlined for asymptomatic people, people can either contact its 877-WELL (9355) or its Facebook page

Covid19 sample testing is done in the public sector at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA); UWI Molecular Laboratory, School of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences; medical laboratory at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex; Sangre Grande Hospital Laboratory; and Scarborough General Hospital Laboratory

The ministry has 11 approved private-sector entities to do covid19 sample testing. They include Southern Medical Clinic in San Fernando, Medical Associates Hospital in St Joseph and St Augustine Medical Laboratory Ltd.