Professor Terrence Seemungal

Having been given a one-week deadline to deliver a report on the level of care into the country’s health care system Prof Terrence Seemungal says he is up to the challenge ahead.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, at a press conference, announced the appointment of a five-member committee to examine the level of care in the country’s health care system, including COVID-19 deaths and report to the Government in one week.

Rowley promised to make the report public.

The committee is chaired by Seemungal, dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies.

The other four committee members are Prof Emerita Phyllis Pitt-Miller, consultant anaesthetist and intensive care unit specialist, former chief medical officer Dr Anton Cumberbatch, Dr Vidya Dean, consultant anaesthetist and ICU specialist and Prof Donald Simeon, director of Caribbean Centre for Health Systems Research and Development.

According to the committee’s term of reference, is expected to identify the profile of the patients who died from COVID-19, review the definition of “COVID-19 death” used by the Health Ministry for consistency with the World Health Organisation guidelines and standard practice and comment on the different methodologies for calculating case fatality rate

In a telephone interview with Guardian Media Sunday, Seemungal said he was ready for the task ahead.

“It will be an honour to work with them. They are most distinguished. I expect that every member of the committee will do their best to achieve the terms of reference. So, we are looking at outcomes….so outcomes in clinical medicine is patients who are discharged, patients who do not make it and how the process by which care is given and so on.”

Seemungal said the terms of reference speaks to what will be required of them.

“We don’t make policy but we will look at the science behind it. We will describe what we are seeing.”

Asked if one week will be sufficient time for the committee to hand over their report, Seemungal said “This is what the country wants. We will do our best.”

Today the committee will meet to discuss their way forward.

“The committee will meet tomorrow and we will decide on all of that.”

Questioned if the committee was formed a bit too late—following the 3,000 plus COVID-19 deaths in the country, Seemungal said “I must confess I did not think about it. It is not for me to second guess the ministry, you know. If the ministry has appointed us…whenever they make the appointment then we would do what we can.”

Seemungal said it would be a lot of work in one week from January 17 to 24, at the end of which it will report its findings.

“I think we are up to it.”

Seemungal said if the committee needs additional time to hand over the report they will ask permission.

“But as it is… that is the time they gave.”