New Health Minister knocks disjointed COVID-19 response, says COVID hospital is an ‘absolute disaster’
Newly-appointed Minister of Public Health, Dr Frank Anthony has promised immediate concerted action and the implementation of a new and synchronized structure that is more responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic with the hope of bringing it under control.
Speaking to the News Room moments after his appointment on Wednesday, Dr Anthony said since President Dr Irfaan Ali was sworn in on Sunday, the new People’s Progressive Party Government has placed the COVID-19 situation among its priorities.
He said an assessment of the various agencies tasked with the response under the previous administration has found that the national COVID-19 response was “disjointed, not in synced and poorly coordinated.”
In this regard, he said the new Government intends to put in place a new structure that will be more responsive to the pandemic. The new structure would ensure participation from various ministries and sectors.
“That’s a big task but we found that the disjointedness and the lack of coordination would have been a major factor in not being able to respond effectively,” Dr Anthony told the News Room.
He promised concerted action to bring the situation under control. Such action would include the procurement of thousands of PCR tests kits to allow for widespread testing.
“The previous Government did not procure adequate amounts of test kits and we have limited available but we are already addressing that. We will have to do more widespread testing and build the capacity of PCR testing at the national level and decentralize it into the regions,” he explained.
Dr Anthony said the hope of the new Government is to be able to do a total of 500 test a day using the resources in both the public and private sectors.
Turning his attention to the newly constructed COVID-19 hospital, Dr Anthony said the project by the previous Government amounts to an “absolute disaster.”
He said $1.6 billion was spent and the new Government was left with literally a shell for a building. The hospital was declared open last Friday by former President David Granger.
“We spent $1.6 billion and not a single piece of equipment is there… there is absolutely no equipment, no beds, no ventilators and other consumables,” he added.
Dr. Anthony said with a lot of money already spent to renovate the building it is surprising that the previous Government didn’t see it fit to at the minimum install a centralized oxygen system for the ICU.
“We have refurbished this place and forget to put in all the essential things for a proper ICU… we will now have to break the walls to install pipes and outlets,” the Minister said disappointingly.
He also noted that there will be a staffing plan completed simultaneously.
Dr Anthony said he has been assured by the President of adequate responses to ramp up the health sector and address the immediate task of tackling COVID-19.
He is very optimistic about the task ahead.