SHARLENE RAMPERSAD

Patients housed at the Camp Balandra facility say COVID-19 testing is being delayed, exposing those patients who may have recovered from the virus to contracting it again.

Guardian Media spoke to two of the patients who shared similar stories. Both agreed to speak with us on condition of anonymity.

The first patient contracted COVID-19 while in another country in May. He was treated at a hospital there for 18 days and although asymptomatic, he was given medication daily until he recovered completely.

When he was granted an exemption to come back to Trinidad several weeks ago, the man said he was tested in two countries while quarantined during travelling. Both tests returned negative results.

Before entering the country, the man said he agreed to pay for his own quarantine at the Chancellor Hotel, at a cost of $14,000. He was tested on the second day of his stay and got a positive result the next morning.

He was then moved to the Couva Hospital. The man said he was shocked at the positive result and requested a second test. A second sample was taken a day later but the man said he never received any result from the second test.

“After days of asking, I was told the sample was discarded, they refused to test it,” the man said.

He was recently moved to the Camp Balandra Step-down facility where he shares a bedroom with another man.

Both have no symptoms of the virus.

“We are sleeping together in a small room less than three feet apart, if one of us is positive and the other isn’t, then there is room for contamination,” he said.

The man said he has been appealing to doctors and health officials for a second test, as he believes the positive test was an error.

“No one who even wants to listen, you are the last resort to get my voice out for someone to take my plight seriously. I have gotten to a point of desperation, I am getting mentally sick from what they are doing to me,” he told us.

The patient said his repeated requests for a test have fallen on deaf ears, although he has offered to pay for his own testing.

It is now ten days since he was last tested and although tests were carried out at the facility on Sunday morning, he was not among the nine people selected for testing.

“All the nurses are saying is that they are not responsible for choosing who gets tested.”

Although he was told he tested positive, the man claims that he has not been given any type of medication since he was hospitalised at Couva.

The second man said he tested positive about 10 days ago. He was asymptomatic and although he was told he would be tested again after seven days if he continued not to show symptoms, this has not happened.

On Day Six, he was told he would be among a group moved from the Couva Hospital to Camp Balandra to make room for new COVID-positive patients.

“Day Seven was Friday, I asked and asked about testing but no one said anything.”

But he said he was among the “lucky” group tested on Sunday morning. He has not been told when he will get the results but was told there was a huge backlog for testing.

“The rooms here are no bigger than 10 by 10 (feet) and the major issue right now is sick people mixing with those who are well and the medical staff are not testing persons on time for them to leave here,” he said.

Camp Balandra was the first facility identified to quarantine citizens who may have been infected with the COVID-19 virus.

On March 18, 68 people who were on the cruise ship Costa Favolosa were sent to the facility for quarantine.

They had been brought into the country on a special flight after COVID-19 cases were detected on the ship. The ship and its passengers were stranded off the coast of Guadeloupe.

Within days, 40 of them tested positive for the virus and were transferred to the Couva Hospital for treatment.

There were numerous complaints from the remaining 28 people at that time that they were being exposed to possible infection because of limited space at the facility, as the days went by nine more positive cases were detected at the facility.

On April 11, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the remaining 19 people were discharged from the facility and allowed to return to their homes.