COVID test blunders

SEVERAL patients being monitored for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) 138 Student Living are accusing Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) officials of mismanaging their results, triggering unrest among the group of approximately 50 people.

The Jamaica Observer has interviewed seven people in isolation at the Government quarantine facility, all of whom were reportedly transferred from Grand Bahia Principe hotel in St Ann because the MOHW’s contract with the hotel had expired.

Word of the expiration of the contract is included in an MOHW circular distributed to the patients, a copy of which the Observer has obtained. It indicated that, as a result, they would be moved to an isolation or health facility located within the health region in which they reside.

It further said that if the patient has received two-consecutive negative COVID-19 test results that patient would be discharged between June 3 and 4.

Patients were also told that if their last COVID-19 test result was negative, they would be tested on June 3, but sent home for isolation, and that a follow-up on their progress would be done by the regional health authority responsible for the community or parish in which they reside.

The MOHW circular said patients who test positive for COVID-19 would be tested on June 3, and moved to a regional isolation facility that is located within the health region in which they reside. It said a follow-up on the patient’s progress would be done.

However, the patients, who asked not to be identified, have communicated a different tale to the Observer and have argued that there has been a major foul-up with test results, causing their time at the facility to be extended.

They have also stated that not only have MOHW officials disregarded the information outlined in the circular, but they have been tested several times within the past two weeks without receiving their test results.

One woman, who is a worker from the Alorica call centre at which most cases of the virus were recorded, told the Observer that she was tested on April 17. A week later she was told that she tested positive and that she should isolate at home.

A second test, she said, was done on May 9, the result for which returned positive.

On May 12, she said she was transported to Grand Bahia, where she was not tested again until May 30. She said she was told on June 3 that the result was negative. She said she was retested that same day.

However, that result and the results of tests subsequently done are yet to be presented to her, she reported.

“Based on the result being negative and what they wrote in the [circular], I was under the assumption that I was going to be discharged, only to hear that we boarding at UWI. They have not given us the results of the test and the ones done after June 3. Why is it that we keep retesting and we don’t know the results of the previous tests?” she asked.

“You have persons here banging down the place; persons crying; persons planning on committing suicide to how this thing is breaking us mentally. There is a girl down from me who cannot stop crying, because before we left Bahia on June 4 they told her that her May 30 test was negative and now she’s here they saying it was a mistake. That she actually tested positive again. How come they testing us and the tests jumping from negative to positive [and] positive to negative and back and forth. This is a roller coaster with the tests, we don’t know if we’re truly positive or negative,” the woman, who broke down in tears during the telephone interview, stated.

“They can’t keep doing this to people. Dem a mix up people test and they lying because when they tell us we’re going home Thursday (June 4) I’m expecting to be home with my family, because dem seh mi test negative, and now they telling me that it was positive. They can’t do this to people; this is mentally draining. Your family can only come see you within certain hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. They work, so sometimes they can’t make it that time… I have been repeating my dirty clothes. Is this treatment fair?” the weeping woman questioned.

The Observer sought a response from the health ministry on Tuesday, but up to press time last night none was forthcoming.

A Norwegian cruise line crew member, who was repatriated on May 25, has also accused MOHW officials of mismanaging the test results.

The man said he disembarked at Falmouth port on May 28 and was immediately tested before being transported to Grand Bahia to await his test result.

He said crew members who received a negative result after the first test were sent home to finish their isolation period, while those who received a preliminary positive result remained at Grand Bahia.

“It took about four days to get my result, and I had to leave my room to go down to the nurse to get my result. When I went to get the information the nurse did not even pull up a file or look on a paper. She just looked at me and tell me that I’m positive. I asked her why she never tell me until now, she said she has so many persons dealing with. But yet she just looked at me and was able to tell me I am positive,” the man claimed.

He, too, confirmed that they were again tested on June 3, but to date, they are yet to receive that result.

“I’m frustrated because I’m on the ship lockdown for two months now, and then I come home and it’s the same thing. Some people deh here them get them first negative and still can’t go home, so mi nuh know what the issue is.

“They are not giving us the results on paper. They are just telling us that we’re positive [or] we’re negative. Some people got their negative and then today (Monday) they’re going to call and tell them that it was actually a positive. How come? Today (Monday) two lady break down a cry. Dem tell them say them test negative, now them call them a tell them seh it was positive. Dem need fi come explain all of this to we. This wicked,” the man said.

A woman, who arrived in the island on May 13, after travelling from Boston to New York, echoed similar sentiments, alleging that MOHW officials lost her results.

According to the woman, the results from her first test, done on May 14, returned a negative.

She said days later a second test was done and she was told that she tested positive.

She was moved to isolation.

A few days later she said that she was retested and that result came back negative.

“The lady said to me [name omitted], continue do what you doing to get your second negative. I said to her, ‘On the paper that we received it said when we get our first negative we can go home.’ She said, ‘Yes,’” the woman communicated to the Observer.

But, instead of being transported home to complete her isolation period, she said that she was again tested on June 3 and was last Thursday (June 4) transferred to UWI.

“I called back the nurse station to say, ‘Miss, even if unnuh not sending me home, although mi get a negative, can you just look at my name and tell me my result if it’s negative or positive? Mi kinda need some closure.’ She asked me to hold on and said that she’d check it for me. The next thing I know she’s back on the phone telling me that she not seeing my name in the database. She said, ‘Well, I don’t see it,’” the woman said.

She said she contacted the MOHW and was told that if the ministry cannot locate her result she would have to be retested.

“It is difficult. Each time they test me my nose bleeds. How can they do this to people? It makes no sense, and the WhatsApp group the nurses created is pointless, because all they do is ask you for your temperature check result. They don’t answer your questions. We need answers. How can you not have someone in your database but have them in isolation? How you test me so much time but cannot find my results?” she questioned.

On Tuesday, the Observer was told that the group was “forced” to undergo tests again, although not receiving the result for previous tests.

“They are treating us like prisoners and as if we don’t have rights. You don’t get anything in writing to show that you have tested negative or positive. You have nothing to take to court; nothing to show your employers. It’s basically your word against the ministry people,” an Adventure of the Seas crew member told the Observer.

“Every day they come and give updates about who recovered and who test positive. Yet you who deh here cannot get your results. Why the country can get updates every day and you here and don’t know your status? This nuh right!” he stressed.

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