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A security guard at the Point Fortin Health Centre.

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Two days after Cedros mother, Christine Sumrah delivered her baby boy on the roadside because there was no emergency care available, the South-West Regional Health (SWRHA) Authority has changed the Point Fortin Health Centre to a 24-hour operation. In a media release yesterday, the SWRHA said that effective 8 am today, the Point Fortin Health Centre (PFHC) will now offer a 24hours walk-in service for patients.

However, pharmacy services remain operational from 8 am-8 pm on weekdays, and 8 am-4 pm on weekends. The realignment of services comes as the Ministry of Health converted the Point Fortin Hospital (PFH) to a COVID-19 treatment centre and the old Area Hospital to a step-down facility. During the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 update yesterday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said he spoke to SWRHA CEO Dr Brian Armour, who indicated the authority was boosting capacity at the health centre.

Parasram said the 24-hour service would replace the care previously offered at the Point Fortin Hospital.

However, the SWRHA maintains that emergency services from the people of Point Fortin remain at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) and the Siparia District Health Facility.

Parasram added that the SWRHA would announce additional measure to boost capacity early next week, based on the realignment of services at both Point Fortin Hospitals. Regarding the unavailability of an ambulance to take Sumrah to the hospital on Monday morning, Parasram said the GMRTT ambulance was en route while the birth took place. “The baby and the mother, from what he (Armour) has indicated, is fine, but I cannot speak to the capacity of GMRTT directly at this point,” Parasram said. Sumrah, a mother of three, went into labor around 3 am on Monday.

Because of COVID-19, pregnant women no longer go to the hospital ahead of delivery. Instead, the SWRHA instructs them to visit the San Fernando General Hospital on the onset of labour pains.

However, when Sumrah’s family called for an ambulance, the dispatcher informed them that none was available. They also did not get help from the police.When the family went to the PFH, the security turn them away, advising them to go to the SFGH. But on reaching Otaheite, the baby began emerging, and her sister-in-law Kelene Arjune had to deliver the baby on the roadside. Both mother and baby are healthy and at home. Like many other residents of Point Fortin, the lack of health services after hours created a concern. With a curfew from 9 pm-5 am, those without transportation and living in remote areas could find it hard to get help in an emergency. Responding to the extended hours at the PFHC, Arjune said: “Thanks to SWRHA for its quick response in providing emergency care 24-hours. I am sure all of the South-West breathed a sigh of relief to know their health can be taken care of. My family and I are elated, especially that our baby boy helped bring this positive change.” Another resident, Khadija Patrice, stressed the sizeable coverage the PFH provided, including people from La Brea, Rousillac and Icacos. Patrice said it was unreasonable to leave citizens without a proper facility to deal with regular medical care. “The world is going on. Even in COVID-19 and lockdown, everyday medical issues still have to be addressed. It is a great inconvenience to people from Icacos, who deal with issues such as asthma, snake bites, seizures and even pregnant women in labour, as in the recent case that occurred,” Patrice said. She questions whether the health centre has the required equipment to deal with the wide range of medical conditions outside COVID-19.