Resolute that they do not want patients recovering from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) being placed at a step-down facility in their area – residents of Brooklyn Settlement, Sangre Grande have taken their battle one step further and sought legal advice on the options available to them.
Having sought the counsel of a senior attorney, the group of traumatised residents have argued, “The proposed decision to house the recovering COVID-19 patients in Brooklyn Settlement was perceived by the residents as likely to endanger the public safety or to deprive the community or any substantial portion of the community of their right to life and enjoyment of property as they would be living in fear.”
In documents presented by the villagers, a recommendation has been put forth for a virtual meeting with relevant stakeholders including the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation (SGRC), the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) and the Ministry of Health (MoH).
The residents are insisting the meeting take place prior to anyone being moved into the facility at Bridge Road.
Meanwhile, a petition against the action has been circulated in the community and sources say it is gaining popularity, especially amongst the large section of elderly persons that reside in the area.
Once the signatures are collected, copies of the petition will be hand-delivered to the ERHA CEO Ronald Tsoi-a-Fatt; the Office of the President; and the United Nations office in Port-of-Spain.
SGRC Chairman Anil Juteram yesterday said he was aware of the residents’ fears as well as the petition, and offered to mediate in any meeting with officials as he called for an amicable resolution to the issue.
He said while he understood the Government’s need to establish such facilities in all areas, it was only right that proper discussions be held with those living in close proximity to them.
In this instance, Juteram said he wanted to ensure the rights of those in his community are preserved, whilst equally understanding of the State’s need to set up such step-down/holding bay facilities for recovering COVID-19 patients.
Juteram also confirmed the residents’ claims that more than 70 per cent of the population that live within Brooklyn Settlement are elderly persons over the age of 70.
The residents said the move would further endanger their lives as many of them have co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, and the introduction of recovering COVID-19 patients into the small community would severely impact the quality of life they now enjoy.
One woman said even though no one has as yet been installed at the facility, her elderly relatives had expressed fears of venturing outside- even to get essential items including groceries and medication.
Residents reportedly only learned of the move to relocate recovering patients to a home for the aged at Bridge Road, around 5.30 pm last Friday, when pamphlets containing information about the virus were hastily distributed.
Hours later, a handful of persons blocked Bridge Road with burning debris to convey their dissatisfaction with the decision, claiming they had not been consulted.