At a meeting yesterday, residents from Vineyard Town, Rollington Town and Franklyn Town expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s decision to shut down St Joseph’s Hospital to the general public, and turn it into a quarantine facility in light of the spreading coronavirus.
But, according to the permanent secretary in the Health Ministry, Dunstan Bryan, the officials had no choice.
He said that a number of places were considered by the ministry, including Fort Augustus, however when it assessed the feasibility, in terms of time it would take to rehabilitate the area, the decision was St Joseph’s.
“The government of Jamaica has to identify multiple places for quarantine. St Joseph’s Hospital is already a hospital. It already has all the infection control mechanism … it was decided that it was best. With this virus around, we have employed two types of restrictions which are quarantine and isolation. St Joseph’s Hospital is one quarantine hospital and (National) Chest Hospital was chosen as an isolation area,” he said.
Bryan sought to reassure the residents that persons who would be quarantined would not be ill, but those who may have been exposed to the virus depending on which country they were travelling from.
“They may have been exposed to elements of the virus but they do not have any of the symptoms. They will be held for observation over a 14-day period. St Joseph’s was chosen because it had a small number of patients (12) that could be relocated in a short period of time,” he said.
Residents were especially furious that they were not consulted before decision was made.
“Unuh shub this dung we throat now and we must stand up and tek it like Sunday dinner. Fool dem tek we fah,” one resident said. They also complained that there was no word on where they could now access services now that St Joseph’s status had changed.
“This decision is premature and unilateral. This facility has been providing critical health services to the community. UHWI and KPH are overcrowded. You could have used the lawns of Bellevue (Hospital) to have makeshift quarantine camps,” one resident said.
“This area is surrounded by more than five schools and when children are hurt, the St Joseph’s Hospital would be the first place they go. So where should they go in the event that they hurt themselves this week?” one principal asked.
Bryan noted that Food for the Poor, which operated close to the hospital, decided to explore options within the community.
“They are in conversations with persons from St Theresa to use part of their facility. The accident and emergency section of the hospital has been relocated to the clinic so people can still have access,” he said.