Former chief medical officer Dr Winston De La Haye has warned that there will be psychological fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, and suggested that the Government seeks help now to put interventions in place for the expected deluge of depression.
According to Dr De La Haye, various psychological and counselling organisations stand ready to assist the authorities for the range of mental trauma-related issues that are already emerging.
He was speaking yesterday at a digital press conference convened by the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) during which the organisation stressed that its aim was to work with the Government, not against it, in the fight against COVID-19.
Dr De La Haye is the PNP aspirant for the constituency of St Catherine East Central.
He said hotlines should be established now to give psychological support to those who need counselling.
“It’s very clear to me that in spite of our activities focused around identification of cases, monitoring, and supplies, we must now, [and] should have already, start making preparations for that heavy psychological component. We are already faced with acute stress disorders in persons. I have had a number of calls from persons who are in the system feeling stressed. It is going to happen on a wider level to the nation. In addition to acute disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder is, for sure, going to be present. Our mental health system is not the most robust; now is the time to reach out to persons who can help,” he urged.
At the same time, Dr De La Haye said the Government should be looking to build field hospitals for recovering COVID-19 patients instead of housing them in hotel rooms which, he argued, are not appropriate and bring into question the issue of monitoring and availability of personnel.
Last week, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said that the State was ready to negotiate with hoteliers for 600 rooms for recuperating patients. He intimated that if reasonable offers were not forthcoming, the law could be used to acquire those facilities, as the country faces a public health crisis.
Yesterday, De La Haye suggested that the National Arena, or the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston would be better sites, with command control and logistics operated by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
“I do not know that a hotel is the appropriate place for such a setting. I think now is the time to ensure that we identify appropriate spaces to be retrofitted for the erection of this kind of field hospital, making available the badly needed hospital spaces… let’s not wait until we have the need. We have a few beds available now at the University Hospital [of the West Indies] and other hospitals [but] they will all be filled very shortly. Let’s start to facilitate the process [of field hospitals] by those who have the capacity,” he advised.
“They [JDF] have that ability, that’s their job — logistics, which is going to be badly needed. All of that they [can] do in their sleep,” he stressed, adding that the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management also has expertise in emergency and logistics management.
“It’s an unusual set of circumstances, the solutions similarly need to be unusual,” he said.
De La Haye said he had also changed his position about the wearing of masks generally, and is recommending that everyone wear masks where possible. This, he said, is based on media reports and information from people in other countries where the virus is raging.
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