Opposition Senator David Nakhid. – AYANNA KINSALE
OPPOSITION Senator David Nakhid on Tuesday in the Senate called for a commission of enquiry (CoE) into the Government’s response to the covid19 pandemic, which he said had cost 4,200 lives. He also urged an audit of the monies sourced by the Government in its pandemic response. His motion hit the Government over patient care and patient movement to and from hospitals, amid an “unacceptable number of deaths from covid19.”
Nakhid said TT’s death toll could have been avoided by an astute, experienced and enlightened leadership. Unlike individuals leading other countries’ pandemic response, he criticised the Government’s choice of Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, a pharmacist not a medical doctor.
“It’s like appointing the Minister of Tourism and Culture (Randall Mitchell) to be captain of TT’s football team,” he quipped.
“It’s about was this minister qualified to lead the country during an unprecedented crisis?” Nakhid hit the Government’s rejection of the Opposition’s offers of help against covid19, adding, “We have the legend, Dr Tim Gopeesingh.” Gopeesingh was present to act for an absent Opposition Senator Damien Lyder.
President Christine Kangaloo asked Nakhid to stop chiding Deyalsingh who was not subject of any no-confidence motion, but to stick to his motion.
He said TT’s covid19 response had never been number one in the world.
“With just over 4,200 covid19 deaths and a case fatality ratio of 2.3 per cent, we have recorded 300 deaths per 100,000 persons in TT.
“We are currently the 173rd worst-performing country out of 195 countries. In other words, number 22 from the bottom.”
He named countries ranked better than TT: St Kitts and Nevis (ranked 101, with 86 deaths per 100,000 of population), Dominica (105, with 95 deaths/100,000) and Jamaica (115, with 111 deaths/100,000). “For every 100,000 persons in TT, we had 190 more deaths from covid19 than Jamaica.”
Nakhid said, “Two thousand more persons died here in TT as compared to Jamaica if it had an equivalent population.”
He questioned the sums borrowed by the Government to tackle the pandemic.
“When you see such a systemic failure in the healthcare response, we need to have an audit of those billions that this Government has claimed to have borrowed and used to respond to this unprecedented crisis.”
Saying TT had Caricom’s highest death rate from covid19, Nakhid said only the United Kingdom and United States had done worse, albeit them keeping open borders.
“A lot of health professionals believe what covid19 did was just highlight an already failing health infrastructure.
“We got cramped tents; we got overflowing wards with inadequate drugs, equipment and medical personnel; we had cockroach and moss-infested step-down facilities.”
Nakhid alleged ventilators had arrived late in TT. He urged an audit as he alleged a shortage of PPE, equipment, beds and ventilators.
He said Finance Minister Colm Imbert had told a parliamentary committee that the bulk of assistance the Government got for covid19 management had gone into the consolidated fund.
Nakhid chided the Government for only allowing $1,200 PCR testing but not the cheaper antigen test that he said had a 97 per cent accuracy rate.
“The Minister of Health was sitting on 500,000 of those (WHO-approved antigen testing) test kits and he did not use them.
Nakhid questioned the Government’s boast of a parallel healthcare system. He said the UNC-built Couva Hospital was utilised only because of the pandemic.
He hit the Prime Minister for encouraging 50,000 people to travel between Trinidad and Tobago during the pandemic in Easter 2021.
Nakhid asked when healthcare staff would be paid the long promised ex gratia payment as staff during the pandemic.