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NCRHA CEO Davlin Thomas

The North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) has had to increase the number of psychologists and social workers assigned to their Psychiatric, Psychological and Social Services Support Network within the past six months as the staff have been reaching out for help to cope as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

NCRHA’s Chief Executive Officer Davlin Thomas yesterday said the number of psychologists had increased from four to six; while the number of social workers had moved from three to seven.

He told Guardian Media, “The latest additions were brought on just before the surge in cases in April.”

He explained that it was not only doctors and nurses requesting access to such services, but also civilian employees.

Thomas said the mental trauma being experienced by those working on the wards and particularly in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at this time, was heart-wrenching to watch.

“We have now introduced a detox programme for persons after their shift and particularly for those dealing with COVID-19 patients,” he said.

“A lot of people are dying and for doctors and nurses in the ICU who are spending eight hours and more with them…it is close contact. They are talking to the patients and forming relationships with them. You are there when they are dying, these personnel might be holding their hands as they breathe their last.

“One of the things the public is not understanding is because families can’t come inside, the doctor or nurse is sometimes all you have, so when you are going…it is them you are seeing as you make that transition. The trauma for these professionals is what we have moved to address.”

He said counselling sessions are being held at least three times per week now as more persons have been coming forward for “help to lean on.”

His comments came after Dr Sharda Priya Narinesingh – who is a resident plastic surgeon at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) accused of posting vitriolic and distasteful comments about a colleague who ended his life on May 12.

Thomas said the stress factor needed to be considered before fingers are pointed.

He, however, sought to remind all healthcare personnel that, “This is the time for professionals to be professionals. We are holding firm in the faith that even if someone was to trip and fall in the field, that when they stand up, we will stand up together and stronger.”

Following the social media post allegedly made by Dr Narinesingh junior surgery doctors of the EWMSC launched an online petition, calling on the Medical Board of T&T to demand a formal apology from Narinesingh, “for her unbelievably unprofessional post which reflects poorly, not only on the NCRHA, but on every single one of us as part of the medical field.”

Up to 6 pm yesterday – 2,529 persons had affixed their signatures to the online petition.

Following the public uproar, Narinesingh took to Facebook on Thursday night to apologise.