More free medical clinics and outreach centres should be set up in the Southwestern peninsula to facilitate the high demand for pediatric, dental care, optometry, physical therapy and dermatology says Cedros councillor Shankar Teelucksingh.
He was speaking to Guardian Media following Tuesday's departure of the United States Navy Ship. The ship docked in La Brea and offered free surgeries and medical care to citizens between September 5-10.
Teelucksingh said the demand for medical care in the peninsula from the USNS was overwhelming. He noted that 1,700 applications for surgeries were made to the USNS but only 100 surgeries were performed.
"This high demand for health care services offered by the USNS is indicative of the trouble we face when accessing medical care," Teelucksingh said. He added that five people from Cedros who suffered heart attacks, died last year while on their way to the San Fernando General Hospital.
"There is no proper ambulance service and the Cedros Health Centre closes at 4 pm and does not open on weekends so if someone falls ill, we have to wait for an ambulance to come from Siparia. By that time the patient can die," Teelucksingh added.
He also added, "There is no dental clinic in Cedros, no eye care clinic and in Point Fortin, there is a lot of overcrowding in the old Point Fortin hospital. Some of the Xrays and ECG machines are not working and if you need any CT Scans or blood work you have to go to the San Fernando General Hospital," he said.
Teelucksingh said he has been calling on international agencies to come to Cedros to offer health care which has been overburdened with the frequent influx of Venezuelan nationals.
He noted that 20 per cent of those accessing health care at the USNS were Venezuelan nationals.
"In Cedros, we saw between 350 to 400 patients but hundreds more showed up to access basic medical care at the outreach medical clinics set up at the Cedros Community Centre and the Point Fortin Indoor Arena in Egypt Village," he added.
Teelucksingh said people were lined up outside the venues from 1 am as they tried to access free dental, optometry, therapy, pediatric and general wound care services.
"On a daily basis, there was a steady mix of both locals and Venezuelans. In Point Fortin, the lines stretched from the centre to the road.
Ailing foreigners were given care and in some cases, our locals were left out. This demand for health care coming from the peninsula shows that we need better health care services in Cedros, Icacos and Point Fortin," Teelucksingh said.
Teelucksingh extended gratitude to the United States Embassy for assisting the people in the peninsula saying his lobbying through international media had raised awareness globally about the health crisis in the Cedros region.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Regional Health Authority Dr Albert Persaud was unavailable for comment and did not answer his cellular phone. However, checks by the Guardian revealed that the centre only offers a limited range of services which include chronic disease, antenatal care, child health and school health.
- Radhica De Silva