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Augustine Pascal helps Petra Gregory with her face mask at the Helena Charles Home for Senior Citizens in La Brea last Friday.

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The Trinidad and Tobago Residential Care Association (TTRCA) preident has blasted Ministry of Health Epidemiology Division Technical Director, Dr Avery Hinds, for his statement which alluded to elderly homes being the cause of a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in people over 60 years.

In a telephone interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Caroline Ruiz said it was the regional health authorities to be blamed and not the homes.

Highlighting how the virus made its foray into elderly homes, Ruiz said, “They were exposed to it due to clinical appointments in the hospitals. That is how it came about in the first place.”

Admitting there was one other meagre contributor that was contained, Ruiz maintained the hospitals were liable.

“Now there were one or two homes that the nurses brought it in, but the majority, from checking and double-checking how could it come into the homes, when we had no visitors and it’s just the staff following all the protocols that are in place and what was the difference between 2020 and 2021? And when most of the homeowners and myself, we went through it, it was because of people attending clinics and the hospitals and stuff,” she related.

Ruiz, who said the TTRCA now had close to 190 in its membership, with over 30 more homes having joined the association in March 2020, cried shame on Hinds and the Ministry of Health for insinuating that elderly homes were being irresponsible with the country’s most vulnerable.

“When they said that the hospitals didn’t have it and it was only the parallel hospitals had it, that was not the truth.”

She continued, “Normally, our protocol is when they come back from the hospital, because we didn’t think that the hospital would have had anything. We would just keep them for five to seven days isolated and then we would put them back in the setting right with the others and that is where it came about.”

Ruiz said from very early on in the pandemic in 2020, the TTRCA made sure excessive precaution was taken to prevent the elderly at the association’s homes from becoming infected, as they were initially the most vulnerable group and to a great extent remain so.

She claimed presentations of the virus were first noticed at various homes in April of this year, when the country was not even amid a spike.

“Our elderly have nothing to do with their spike. That is something that’s been going on since April.”

Responding to Guardian Media’s question on whether the TTRCA had any statistical data about how many homes were currently presenting with increased COVID-19 cases, or how many deaths have occurred as a result, Ruiz said, “Actually, I am now working on that. I have not completed it because I am doing a lot. Remember, I am a homeowner. I’m dealing with TTRCA, I’m dealing with the ministry, so it’s a lot on my plate.”

However, Ruiz said she was trying to gather some statistics which the TTRCA will eventually release to the public.