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St Augustine Medical Laboratory deputy director Dr Shari Ramsaran takes data from clients who visited the facility for COVID-19 tests yesterday.

Eight private hospitals in T&T have agreed to implement a mandatory PCR test policy for unvaccinated employees starting on September 1.

A letter signed by authorised personnel from each establishment said while they acknowledge that it is every person’s right to make decisions for their health, they agreed that all unvaccinated employees without a valid medical reason will be required to submit weekly PCR test results to their respective human resources departments.

“We have not taken this decision lightly. We understand the cost factor involved, but the safety of persons accessing private hospitals and their families are OUR first priority,” it said.

The employees will be required to foot the bill for the tests.

“We the undersigned private hospitals have all agreed as providers of healthcare to the vulnerable population that we have an obligation to provide a safe environment for their treatment and care. We as your private healthcare providers will use every means at our disposal to protect the accessing public and the best weapon available to us right now is the vaccine,” it said.

The letter was signed by representatives of Cross Crossing Medical Centre, Gulf View Medical Centre, Medical Associates, Southern Medical Clinic, Surgimed, St Augustine Private Hospital, Victoria Nursing Home and West Shore Medical Private Hospital.

Managing director of Gulf View Medical Tricia Medford said patients were enquiring about the vaccination status of staff while doctors prefer to have vaccinated staff around their patients.

She said 90 per cent of her staff were vaccinated. The outstanding 10 per cent, she said, were from the nursing staff.

Chief executive officer of West Shore Medical Private Hospital Umesh Rampersad said the idea of unvaccinated staff around patients at private hospitals did not sit well with doctors.

“There are some doctors threatening not to operate in some private hospitals because their staff is not vaccinated,” he said.

Rampersad said educational seminars are being held at West Shore Medical to encourage staffers to get inoculated.

However, the president of the T&T Registered Nurses’ Association Idi Stuart disagreed with the policy which he said indirectly makes vaccinations mandatory.

“If you are asking staff members to undergo a weekly PCR test at their own cost, which the sum total of four tests per month is the salary of an employee, really and truly you are saying you want the staff to mandatory be vaccinated,” he said.

“We (TTRNA) are very pro-vaccination, we have been a part of the majority of the mass vaccination sites as volunteers, we would want to be very cautious of how private institutions roll out this plan,”he added.

Stuart said if the nursing staff at private institutions are being mandated to take the vaccines by the new protocol they should contact the association.

“We would ensure that this would be one of the first set of cases that will be going before the courts for their adjudication,” he said.

He also called on the Government to step in and exercise its constitutionally enshrined power under the Private Hospitals Act.