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After Ira Mathur’s explosive article in the Sunday Guardian of September 20, I had thought there would be another explosion, one of concern in the media and public about what’s apparently happening in the Intensive Care Units at Couva and Caura hospitals, charged with taking care of COVID-19 patients. Well think again.

To summarise, the article was titled: State doctors: COVID-19 overwhelming the system. Well we know that the Ministry of Health has been having problems with testing and quarantine accommodation and keeping citizens out of T&T for unknown reasons and withholding vital information on COVID-19 from the public and medical profession on the spurious grounds that this is private information but, if accurate, this carries the problem to another level.

The article is described as interviews with “the collective voice of a series of front-line doctors in state health care facilities, breaking gag orders as they are fed up of the top heavy opaque approach to managing the parallel health systems”.

“Gag orders?” Yes! In case you don’t know, doctors who work in the public health system are not allowed to speak up even when the system does not function and patients suffer. Forget about the Hippocratic oath and doing the best for your patient. Not always in the public health system. It’s a remnant of colonialism which says that the best way to solve a problem is to keep it hidden and try to resolve it internally. That may happen in civilised societies, not in a half-baked one like ours.

Ms Mathur’s article includes statements from doctors like: “COVID-19 positive patients aren’t just dying in ICU in Couva but while waiting to be tested or waiting for results”.

“Couva’s ICU staffing ratio is so low, there is only one nurse per ten patients and only one nurse for four critical patients”. One nurse per ten ordinary patients is par for our hospitals (not that that’s the correct way) but it should be one ICU trained nurse to one ICU patient.

“Junior doctors with little or no clinical experience assigned to the acute care units in Couva are untrained to look after seriously ill COVID-19”.

“The entire COVID-19 response is coordinated by a closed clique of three doctors. Front line doctors, first responders to COVID-19 patients are unsupported and entirely excluded from the planning and decision-making process and management of COVID-19 patients”.

All of this coming at a time when deaths from COVID-19 have increased dramatically over the last month.

There’s more but the above seemed to me to be enough to mandate some sort of response, from the public, from the writers of editorials and columns and from the ministry. There’s not even been a peep.

Surely there’s enough evidence for someone to suggest a fact finding mission. There has been a sudden increase in deaths from COVID-19 and there must be concern about this. In all fairness, this may be an expected outcome but until the concerns raised by the article are answered, doubt will remain in all our minds. Or is it that no one believes the article? On what evidence would that be based? Over the years, Ms Mathur has shown herself to be an accurate and honest commentator. Are the comments in her article to be discarded, just so?

It seems that people in T&T have become so immunised to bad news, scandals, tales of corruption and incompetence that they don’t take on anything unless it affects them directly.

It is also unfair for the folks who work in the ICU at Couva Hospital to be accused of poor training, inexperience in dealing with a new disease, poor staffing rations and not be given the opportunity to answer their critics. At the very least that is a reason for some investigation to be done.

The worst thing that successive governments have done in T&T is to inculcate that sense of hopelessness and helplessness that helps define us as a people, the belief that nothing will change, no matter what happens, so what’s the use of trying. The only time we become energised is when someone, usually an athlete or a group of athletes, Lara, the 1989 soccer team, overcomes the sense of hopelessness and for a few days everyone goes around showing the flag.

It’s easy to do that when your team is winning. It’s when things are down that true patriots stand up. But problems have to be acknowledged first before anything can be done. What is happening in the Couva ICU?