This is a good time to acknowledge the sterling contributions healthcare providers – doctors, nurses, medex, dentists and dentex, technologists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, etc – make to help keep people safe from diseases and infectious pathogens. As COVID-19 ravages through the world, with a ferocity never seen before, leaving a trail of sickness and deaths, these health-care providers stand between us and death. They sacrifice their own well-being so that their sisters and brothers can be kept safe and can be taken care of. At the end of this latest scourge, I hope we dedicate a day to recognise their heroism. I hope we do more than that. I hope our new Government gives every healthcare provider some form of tangible reward.
In the midst of healthcare providers boldly, bravely combating COVID-19, the Public Health Ministry is everyday showing a different side. Its clueless management of the COVID-19 response has endangered people’s lives. People are already getting very sick; unfortunately, too many will die, because of the recklessness of the Public Health Ministry. Volda Lawrence is showing the world how exactly not to manage COVID-19. To be fair, it is not the hard-working technical leadership of the Ministry. They have been sidelined. The person who sits as an imposter Minister, Volda Lawrence, continues to exert political control and has recklessly politicised the COVID-19 response, with full complicity of David Granger. In the process, they have left the healthcare providers as “sitting ducks” and have placed everybody’s lives at risk.
There is secrecy, incompetence, cluelessness; and there is corruption. In the midst of all of this, people are asking, where is the Chief Medical Officer? Why is it that less than 100 tests for COVID-19 have been done? They should have ordered testing kits since January when I first raised this issue. PAHO has given out some 1800 tests, but there are people with serious symptoms who are being denied the test. Why is quarantine a big secret in Guyana? Guyanese know where all our prisons are. But they do not know where the quarantine centres are? Since when quarantine for public health is like a high-security prison? Since when testing must be approved by the Public Health Ministry? Since when the results must be given to the Ministry, which then decides if it will release it? This is all criminal and when this is all over, an inquiry must be ordered and people held accountable.
But the recklessness of the COVID-19 response is only the latest threat to people’s safety and lives from the Public Health Ministry. As the deadly virus spreads with ferocity across the world, Volda Lawrence, and those she surrounds herself with, behave as if the virus has lost its ferocity in Guyana. Everywhere else, after the first case is identified, we see the rapid spread. In Guyana, Volda Lawrence wants us to believe that COVID-19 is taking its own sweet time. The truth is that dozens of people are right at this moment walking around spreading the virus. It will have deadly consequences. Among the many actions that are needed at this very moment is a scaled-up testing programme. Without this being done now, we will see an escalation that will overwhelm the health system. We have squandered an opportunity to be ahead of the virus. I am afraid that a public health catastrophe is around the bend. There will be people who must be held accountable. One of them is Volda Lawrence. The other one is David Granger.
For five years, the Public Health Ministry has put people’s lives in danger. The total mismanagement of the health sector and the corruption making this ministry a poster child for corruption have recklessly jeopardised people’s health and put people’s lives at real risk. The recent revelation a company supplied expired and fake HIV testing kits is not surprising, but still shocking. This really puts people’s lives in jeopardy. Yet Volda Lawrence is silent. But the most shocking part is that the Auditor General warned many times that this company violated legal requirements. In 2016, there was even an inquiry ordered by Joe Harmon in his capacity as Minister of State that implicated this same company for malpractice. It identified the then Deputy Permanent Secretary as engaged in questionable practices. That person is now the PS and she is again involved in yet another corruption and scam.
While its mismanagement of COVID-19 recklessly jeopardises people’s lives, the truth is that for five years people’s health and people’s lives have been under threat because the Public Health Ministry has been under the control of a cabal that does not care.