Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram is appealing to employers to adhere to the new discharge criteria.
His appeal comes in response to reports that several employers are refusing to allow recovered COVID-19 patients return to work without a negative PCR test.
“We are asking employers to please abide by the guidelines we have put out. These are WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines for discharge,” Parasram said in response to a question from Guardian Media.
On if the ministry intended to take any action to ensure compliance, especially in the private sector, he said: “We really will reach out, as well, to the T&T Chamber of Commerce. I have spoken to the Chief Personnel Officer about it and he agrees fully as well. I think we have the backing of the human resource persons.”
He said what the employees would present to employers won’t be a “fit-to-work” statement but instead would be a sick leave for the period of their isolation and a quarantine release form.
“For the period that you were ill, they would give you a sick leave for that period and they would give you a form- not a fit for duty- but a release from quarantine form which is standard across all 8 counties and in Tobago as well so that they can give to the employer that form meaning that you can return to work,” he explained.
He said the new discharge criteria can be found on the ministry’s website and encourages all employers to take a look at it.
During the first phase of COVID-19 infections locally, patients were given two PCR tests within a 24-hour period to provide a diagnostic discharge if they return negative. However, as the initial protocol quickly became infeasible after the country began experiencing community transmission of the virus, the Ministry of Health, among other changes, switched to a clinical discharge on August 26. This meant a PCR test would no longer be used but instead, a patient would be discharged based on their symptomology.
The Chief Medical Officer, as well as other local experts, have all assured that this is safe and the new criteria would see people being discharged when they are no longer infectious. But now, some employers are insisting on a negative PCR test before allowing employees to return to work.
Guardian Media has received reports from some employees that they were told to seek a test privately and foot the estimated $1,600 bill themselves.