OUR COVER STORY by PETER GREEN
On Tuesday, 10th March, 2020 the neurological and urological clinics of the Port of Spain General Hospital (POSGH) were closed due to the lack of water. Many of the patients who had to attend either of these clinics had arrived at least three hours before their appointed time of 10:00 am. Among the many persons, several were in wheel chairs, there was the aged and the infirm and even toddlers.
Not only were they made to endure sitting on the hard benches that are provided as seating, but they also had to endure cramped spaces with little or no ventilation in the waiting room. Added to this, they were subject to the bad manners and disrespectful behaviour of the clerks and nurses who came at 12:45 pm to announce that there would be no clinics on that day.
Clinics, the patients were informed, were postponed due to a lack of water and new appointments will have to be made. No empathy was shown to the long-suffering patients and their caregivers, many of whom were waiting for some nine hours without even a cup of tea!
To add insult to injury, no water was available to wash one’s hands in this time of COVID-19! Shame! Shame! Shame! Not even some water for the patients to wash their hands far less to drink!
In this time of COVID-19, in every community in the more than 110 countries that it has invaded, the message has been very clear; wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your
Water and soap are touted as the preferred commodities for the cleaning of hands over hands over hand-sanitizers whether these sanitizers have 60% and more of alcohol or not.
So, when essential services at the Port of Spain General Hospital have to be aborted; when surgical procedures have to grind to a halt due to a lack of water, even when there is no threat of COVID-19, such a state of affairs must be incomprehensible.
False and fake
Now in an environment with high water demand, at a time when we can ill-afford to be without water, parts of our hospital have to shut down. Then claim that we are ready for COVID-19 is just as false and fake as some social media posts.
No water to flush toilets, no water for doctors to scrub, and what was interesting is that when Sunshine Today passed through the hospital, there was not even sanitizers to clean one’s hands. So, is it that at the Port of Spain General Hospital, which is supposed to be at the front lines in our fight against COVID-19, we are cultivating situations for the virus to spread?
Is it that the Ministry that is supposed to be in charge of our health has an incomplete checklist for this project, and water, the most essential item, has been ignored? If that is not so can someone please tell me why the Port of Spain General Hospital ran out of water last Tuesday?
This poses an even greater problem because amid all the hype about washing hands, amid all the ads that are teaching us all of a sudden about the proper way to wash hands and how long we need to do so, are we sure that the supply of water that is currently in stock can meet the demands of this new approach?
To give the hospital an opportunity to respond, is it that the run on water over the past week or so placed our country in such a precarious condition that surgical operations had to be aborted because someone failed to do their job and ensure the adequacy of water at our hospital?
For the hospital to be without water means that the drain on the supply of potable water began some time ago.
Everyone knows that hospitals possess a water farm as an emergency procedure. This lack of water last Tuesday begs the question concerning how often these tanks are checked. Because for the hospital to run out of water given the volumes that are usually stored means that important tasks are now being taken for granted and this is creating a challenge to the delivery of quality health
care in our country.
The Minister of Health cannot be serious
The Minister of Health, the Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, cannot be serious when he says we are prepared for this fight against COVID-19. We are only in the month of March and he is the leading candidate for the Cobo Award 2020.
If sections of our oldest hospital had to experience a virtual shutdown due to a lack of water at a time when this virus is threatening to halt the global village, then clearly all claims that we are ready are false.
The most important weapon in the fight against COVID-19 is water, given the emphasis across the globe and the importance paid to the washing of hands as a preventative measure to stymie the transmission of the virus.
We cannot assume that everything is all right about the nation’s readiness to fight COVID-19. One would have thought the fight would have included the Minister of Public Utilities, just back from his junket in Ghana, at the frontiers of this battle to ensure that water is available to all even if WASA has to hire trucks to deliver this important commodity.
If water is that critical and so important, one would assume that its availability would take precedence over the supply of latex gloves, hand sanitizers and face masks just to name a few, that seem to have taken priority over water.
We cannot be serious. The Minister of Health has to be joking to believe that he could ignore a critical item like water, ignore the fact that a shortage could plummet this country into a crisis of gargantuan measures and that everything will still be all right.
I sat listening to the Press Conference held on Saturday, March 14, 2020, and I was shocked that not a single journalist seated before the lead team raised the question about the availability of water for citizens to wash their
I was amused because right in the City of Port of Spain there are houses where latrines are still used, where there is no access to running water and others where water is on a schedule. Yet the Minister of Health keeps on emphasizing the importance of washing your hands as a preventive measure, but at the Port of Spain General Hospital earlier in the week, services had to shut down due to a lack of water.
It sends a strong message that we are not ready. It shakes the confidence in the faith we harboured that our leaders know what they are about when the basic necessities to fight this virus are not merely ignored, but forgotten.
The ideal and appropriate way to fight this virus and win is through astute preparation and honesty in our dialogue. Regretfully, on both fronts the Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security have failed because simply put, we are not ready.
Not a single entity has calculated how much will be the increase in the demand for water and whether WASA has the capacity to provide it.
I am sure the Ministry of Health failed to do a threat assessment to determine if citizens are being called upon to now wash their hands for 20 – 30 seconds how that would affect the current stock of water available for medical use.
The proclamation of readiness is preceded by quality planning where even the most minute of exercises are considered. The mere idea that even our journalists missed the opportunity to interrogate the Ministry about the availability of water in a country where the precious commodity is not available to all, shows the extent of our blindness and leaves us to wonder where else we have dropped the baton.
The truth is that we are simply not ready
The truth is that we are simply not ready. All the ole talk, all the narratives of propaganda luring the population into false belief must now stop and a reassessment of our current landscape must be undertaken.
We cannot afford to contribute to this global pandemic through careless planning; we deserve much better than “water is being delivered”.
This cannot continue any longer because it places us at risk.
The best advice that anyone can give to this lead team headed by the Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh is to return to the drawing board, allow the familiar to become strange and ensure all the commodities are available to all for us to be able to successfully battle COVID-19.