On May 22, 2020, Texila American University, Guyana (TAU), organized the third panel discussion on COVID-19 preparedness on the topic “Status of COVID-19 in Guyana and Role of Private Institutions in Controlling Pandemic.” Being the third of its series, this discussion was arranged to be happened on the TAU’s virtual platform on the above-mentioned date by 2:00 PM that had seen attendance from students, staff, and the faculty.
- Dr. Surendra Persaud, Medical Director, Caribbean Surgery Inc.
- Dr. Dheeraj Bansal, Dean, College of Medicine, TAU
- Dr. Hugh Duckworth, Chief Academic Officer, TAU
Dr. Bansal welcomed everyone to the third panel discussion and introduced the panel and our special guest, Dr. S. Persaud.
Introduction onto Status in Guyana and the Caribbean
Dr. Persaud indicated that we have a relatively low number of positive cases due to:
- population density,
- a low number of testing, and
- the number of deaths.
Dr. Persaud stated that we would have a low mortality rate because the tradition in Guyana is that for geriatric deaths, their relatives do not request postmortems for these cases. As such, it is very difficult to trace the exact number of deaths.
Dr. Bansal stated that the mortality rate could be covered under two spectrum: 1) having compromised immune systems and 2) other complications.
Dr. Persaud also stated that COVID-19 would be under research for the next 15 years to determine the exact mortality rate for Coronavirus.
Dr. Bansal asked Dr. Duckworth, “What is the situation in the USA?”
Dr. Duckworth said, “Here, in the USA, it’s very similar in terms of what’s happening in Guyana with people following the advice from the various agents. The majority of the population is wearing masks.”
Dr. Duckworth also said, “The country has been opening up a little at a time, but you see a surge in positive cases, and you will get new hotspots emerging in various regions in the country based on several different variables. And, the weather pattern is very interesting since it is springtime, and it is starting to get hot. It will be interesting to see the outcome. A low number of testing has been reported. The number of deaths is the same as the pattern as to how do you determine the cause of death due to pre-existing conditions.”
Dr. Duckworth had also stressed the importance of being aware and practicing common hygiene as advised by local governments.
Dr. Bansal rerates one of the key points made by Dr. Persaud. Being there is so much. We do not know about this virus. It will take years of research to have a good grasp of understanding this virus.
Dr. Bansal asked Dr. Persaud, “Whenever a pandemic happens, people look up to the government hospitals for taking the lead. Had the situation been worst? How do you see the private sector can contribute to this pandemic?”
Dr. Persaud replied, “Initially, we alarmed that the government wanted to control the narrative but was not surprised. Given the fact, this is a global pandemic, and the government wanted to control the testing, the treatment, and the quarantine. Many of us felt that if the numbers had gotten worse, they would have to include the private sector. If you looked at the projections made by the Pan American Health Organizations and Imperial College, a lot of people were sacred, and if those numbers of cases materialize, then for sure, Guyana’s health sector cannot handle those cases.”
Dr. Persaud indicated, “There must be awareness created by the public health officials that the majority of the population, including government officials, prefer to be treated at the private institutions.”
Dr. Persaud stated that the private hospitals had a fair of being labeled as a COVID-19 facility and, as such, didn’t want to be associated with treating COVID patients. Dr. Persaud also indicated that the majority of the hospitals around the world are also being affected finically because the daily operations have somewhat ceased as their focus is to provide treatment to the persons infected with COVID-19.
Some of the private hospitals are now allotting a designated space for the screening and treatment of COVID-19 patients. Dr. Persaud also stated that this situation would change the way private hospitals deliver healthcare post-COVID-19.
Dr. Bansal said to Dr. Persaud, “Given the fact that you are running a private setup of your own, how do you contribute to the treatment of COVID-19 patients without comprising your current setup?”
He replied, “We are struggling to create a safe zone for our staff and patients. Screening has been done at the entrance of all the health facilities.”
Dr. Duckworth indicated that the country had started reopening some elective surgeries in limited numbers and other healthcare services that had been commenced under strict guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). He also stated that these guidelines and services might vary depending on the region. He also indicated that there are also rural health facilities being hit financially as well.
Dr. Persaud stated that you would now see more healthcare physicians adapting and embracing the use of technology, for example, Telemedicine, Telebanking, etc. He insisted that this pandemic would see a vast change in healthcare delivery in the future.
The panel also touched on mild depression cases popping up due to current lockdown in countries across the globe. Dr. Duckworth also noted that the essential workers are more stressed due to the high volume of cases and deaths in various countries. Dr. Persaud weighed in that this pandemic also created several uncertainties, especially for the younger generation, in terms of job security, etc.
The reality is that many jobs will disappear. Another harsh reality that we have to expect is this pandemic will affect both mother and father differently in the home. It has a multitude of things we need to look as it has something as we go forward. The schools in Guyana being out and having no clear directions from the Ministry of Education will have an impact on working mothers.
Dr. Bansal indicated that this is something that needs to be addressed. Dr. Duckworth shared that this is almost like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr. Persaud was asked: “What do you say to a person who comes into your clinic without a mask? How do you address the situation?”
Dr. Persaud stated that all the health facilities have screening before entering the facilities based on the CDC guideline. The screening will be done for the foreseeable future. The person’s temperature is being checked, and a list of questions asked. Once the temperature is beyond the normal range, the person will be referred to the COVID center.
Is there any way the private sector can contribute to general awareness?
Dr. Persaud stated that awareness had been happening through different business entities (EG Private Sector Commission). Most of the awareness had been given to businesses on how to keep employees safe and how to deal with suspected COVID symptoms. But, in general public awareness, the private sector had done a poor job in getting information out to the populace.
The panel briefly discusses self-immunity and lifestyle in the Caribbean and Guyana. Dr. Bansal thanked the panel members and the participants for joining the Third Panel Discussion on COVID-19 Status, and the panel echoed to continue to practice hygiene and stay safe.