UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar delivers her address during the party’s Monday night virtual report.

Gail Alexander

Are health services categorising COVID patients according to their age and comorbidities and using this basis to determine who they‘ll take care of or shunt aside?

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night called for answers on this situation after a letter was sent to her. This detailed the case of a 86-year-old man who died last week at the Couva hospital.

“Is it some people see themselves as God and they determine who they will take care of or shunt aside?” Persad-Bissessar asked.

She raised the issue during last night’s UNC Monday Night Forum. The meeting was unaffected by the current state of emergency and curfew restrictions since it was pre-recorded.

Persad-Bissessar said there has been much talk of medical care at health facilities, overcrowding and ventilator shortages. She said information was being received that “they” were categorizing people who were old or with medical pre-conditions (comorbidities) and not much priority was placed on such people as they might die.

“Is this true?” she asked.

Persad-Bissessar said someone sent her a case of the 86 year old whose life was “stolen” on May 14.

She reading aloud the person’s letter. This stated that the elderly man who was homebound contracted COVID. His oxygen supply was affected despite a donated oxygen generator.

The letter stated an ambulance which was called, took four hours to arrive and the driver spoke of horrors at hospitals. However, Couva Hospital had accepted the man as someone had just died and a bed had become available.

Persad-Bissessar said the letter writer promised the man he’d be brought back home but the family later regretted sending him “…If we ‘d known what would have happened next.”

The man had comorbidities as well as being elderly and the family knew that the odds were against him. But the writer added that the first call from the hospital was that “Your dad is very sick and because of his age he didn’t qualify for ICU (Intensive Care Unit).”

The writer said the system was overrun and because of the government programme, the man wasn’t a candidate for further treatment but was a body in a production line with pre-destined results.

The letter added, “We knew we made the wrong choice, he died alone and scared on Friday at 7.35 am, we were contacted at 4.07 pm,”

The writer stated they shared the information as their story was similar to “far too many people’s”. The person felt the medical system never really responded sufficiently. The day the man was admitted there were 342 in hospitals, nine in ICU and 58 in HDU.

The writer criticized the Prime Minister in whose hands they said fate was left. While he spent three weeks with COVID, they added that he emerged arrogantly berating people. They also said the curfew was useless. The writer stated the situation was an indictment on the Opposition and Government and “every person directly and indirectly in Government’s service.

“I’m not anti PNM, I’m anti senseless death,” they added.

Persad-Bissessar said the writer wasn’t a UNC person, “I agree we’re not putting systems in place to save lives – are you categorising people this way?”

Should the system continue to be overburdened she suggested Government use schools and other buildings which could be retrofitted for hospital use.

Kamla slam Rowley’s “jackass” remark

Persad-Bissessar also slammed Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statement last week where – warning people on the COVID situation – he quoted from calypsonian Devon Seales’ “Don’t Jackass De Scene.”

Persad-Bissessar said, “How can you use that obscene language in the public domain?! You’re not a calypsonian, is that what you teach your children… “

“You have poetic licence or calypsonian’s licence? You want to kicks off – do your job! You are Prime Minister and we’re very disappointed in you!”

She also called for clarification on state of emergency regulations where offices of MPs, councillors and the Opposition Leader’s office were concerned. She noted regulations prohibited gatherings at workplaces without exemption.

But political parties – such as PNM, UNC and others – are caught in this since they have workplaces that are also public places. Under the regulations, press conferences may not be able to be held at such offices, she added.

Persad-Bissessar said it was uncertain if those offices fell under the regulations since Parliament – to which those offices are affiliated- is exempt from regulations.

She said MPs all function outside of Parliament also and people come to their offices to seek assistance.

“In a participatory democracy these (operations) are a vital part of the democracy and parties must be allowed to operate even if limited. This (issue) is a serious breach and violation of our democracy.”

Persad-Bissessar called for provisions to allow those offices to operate and for people to access them even if only five at a time. She requested for MPs, the same concession whereby trade unions are being allowed to operate.

Persad-Bissessar also called on the US to provide some of its 80 million vaccines to T&T and called for the Prime Minister to pursue such a donation.

“Don’t be ashamed to beg to save lives Prime Minister.”

To keep the country going and food affordable, she suggested Government remove VAT on food and pay business peoples’ VAT refunds

She said Government’s 25,000 promised hampers were reduced before they were even given and people were also unable to get relief grants if they had no bank account.

She said the UNC had to act to assist as it did during the 2020 lockdown.

“We’re opening relief centres all over T&T. The UNC will help those who can’t afford even their basic needs at this time. We’re asking the wider population to respond to the very real threat of food insecurity that thousands of our citizens are facing daily.”

“You can contribute to this initiative with foodstuff, household supplies, or you can even volunteer logistical assists.”

She added that UNC supports the T&T Muslim League’s stance on the Israel-Palestine issue.

Former MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh advised the public not to wait for any special vaccine brand and to get vaccinated. He said it’s now being concluded Sinopharm ‘s vaccine for instance is very efficient and WHO approved.

He recommended that Government allow the private sector with distribution when more vaccines arrived. He also said political leaders must have a ceasefire and form a national front to deal with the issue. He said Persad-Bissessar agreed to this.