MINISTER of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton has confirmed that the ministry is no longer relying on a negative test result to declare a patient COVID-19-free.
His statement followed a query raised in Parliament yesterday by Opposition spokesman on health Dr Morais Guy about the just over one-week recovery of 43 of the 87 people who reportedly tested positive at The Golden Age Home in Vineyard Town, St Andrew, on October 21.
Dr Tufton, who was reporting in the Lower House on the impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes, infirmaries and prisons across the island, announced the recoveries, while noting that the remaining patients are stable.
“I think it is a tribute to the efforts, both [of] the staff at the facility and the public health team, that the situation is not far worse than it could have been. One only has to cast their minds at similar institutions abroad, whenever we have these outbreaks, and the causalities that result,” he said.
Guy called Tufton’s report of the recoveries “curious”, pointing out that the announcement of the cases was made on October 21 and the recoveries noted on November 3, amounting to fewer than the minimum 14 days required for recovery, in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) standards.
“This is good, but I would like to know whether these recoveries have been validated by discharge testing to see whether they have recovered, or is it just a clinical case of recovery by these people, because this is important,” he said.
Pointing to the date of the announcement of the cases and the date of the announcement of recoveries, Guy questioned the initial date of discovery of the outbreak.
n response, the health and wellness minister noted that a negative test result is no longer a requirement of the WHO, in declaring a patient COVID-19-free.
“In terms of whether or not a negative test was done, that is no longer a requirement by WHO [and] PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) standards. What they do, they speak to a 14-day period after the infection, and then, based on a clinical assessment of the patient, a determination is made as to the status of the patient and that is what we now do as standard procedure across the board, and that applied also to the home,” said Tufton.
In the meantime, the minister said that owners of nursing homes that are found to be non-compliant with COVID-19 protocols after November 30 will be prosecuted.
“I am serving notice to all owners and operators of residential health care facilities, that they must become compliant with all the regulations and protocols related to COVID-19 by November 30, 2020. Failure to comply to same will see prosecutions under the Public Health Act or the disaster risk management orders, which may result in fines of up to $1 million,” he said, adding that facilities may also be ordered closed, permanently.
He said 236 residential facilities have been inspected, including 203 nursing homes, 13 infirmaries, 14 children’s homes, and six rehabilitation institutions.
Of that number, 99 nursing homes were found to be compliant with the COVID-19 protocols, while the same obtained for seven of the infirmaries, four children’s homes, and two of the rehabilitation institutions.