It is indeed saddening for the entire country as we learn of yet another COVID-19 death. As Prime Minister Mia Mottley stated in her address when she announced the National Pause, one Barbadian life lost is simply too many.
Of major concern to us is our ageing population. That population whose health and weary bodies lack what it takes to fight off this deadly disease. In many of the recent cases, it has been reported by health officials that the virus has been taken home to these victims. Essentially, they have not left home and contracted the disease. The disease came to them. Whether it was through a family member, a neighbour, a loved one or caregiver, they have paid with their lives.
Former national athlete Cherita O’dell, the granddaughter of the latest patient to lose the battle to COVID-19, posted a touching tribute on Facebook today pointing out that her granny’s home was a “pitstop” for many.
“She was at home when she contracted COVID, a home which was always a welcoming pitstop for neighbours, friends and family. Some respected the protocols and some obviously didn’t, figuring that her home was a safe haven. This is the reality of our time, unfortunately.”
O’dell went on to say that COVID “stripped away the peaceful, drama-free ending to the story that we would have preferred”.
Each time we read about a COVID-19 death and we are informed that the person has “pre-existing health challenges” that does very little to comfort us and certainly does not comfort the families that are now in mourning.
What if pre-COVID-19 that elderly citizen was destined to become the island’s latest centenarian? After all, we continue to boast about the fact that Barbados is one of the leading countries in the world with the highest number of centenarians per capita.
What if they simply wanted a few more years on earth? Even at their age and sometimes fragile state, they were still able and well enough to fight off these “pre-existing” challenges. They still made it to their 80s or 90s. But the coronavirus snuffed out all hope they might have had of holding on for a few more years.
Death, the mighty leveller, has a way of making us all pause and reflect. Nothing hits home more poignant than the reality of not being able to see, touch, or hear the words of another human being ever again.
This daunting challenge of protecting the country, especially our most vulnerable, has been dealt a blow by news of confirmed additional cases of COVID-19 at the Geriatric Hospital. Earlier, we heard Minister of Health Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic speak of a single case there where a patient had contracted the virus.
At today’s press conference, the PM revealed that three staff members of the hospital have tested positive for COVID-19. News too that our Governor-General, Dame Sandra Mason, is in self-isolation after a member of her staff tested positive for the virus. However, her first test was negative. Also, Chief Justice Sir Patterson Cheltenham has gone into self-isolation after a close contact has shown symptoms of COVID-19. We hope and pray for good health for both.
But sadly the situation at the Geriatric Hospital, if not managed correctly, has the potential to threaten the lives of the many senior citizens who now call the hospital home. Indeed, we join the country in rallying around the medical officials who will now be tasked with providing health care there.
The institution presents another instance where the disease was taken to the elderly. Lt Col Bostic had assured that all visits to the hospital were suspended some time ago.
Maybe where the Government dropped the ball was by not carrying out a structured testing programme there for all workers. This should have been a priority when it was known that there were suspected and later confirmed cases at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. We can ill afford to take chances with the lives of these most vulnerable in our society. We would have seen and heard multiple stories around the world where Senior Citizens Homes and hospitals became a playground for COVID-19 to run rampant causing significant loss of life among the elderly.
Government must ensure that when this situation is contained, no such occurrence should again happen in the future. Family members and loved ones must also act more responsibly. Your bodies may allow you to carry the virus and it may never affect you. Your bodies may allow you to get the full brunt of the virus and come out of Harrison’s Point smelling like a rose.
Sadly, your ageing relative does not enjoy such a luxury.
Those of us who must be out and about on business, as we traverse in and out of our homes, we must all be mindful that what we do away from home has the potential to be deadly for those whom we love.
Every care and precaution must be taken as we easily tend to drop our guard while we are in our safe place called home. But we are called upon to be way more vigilant if we are to save our senior citizens.
Lest we forget, “our brave forefathers sowed the seeds from which our pride was sprung”. Our country is what it is today because it was built on the backs of our grandparents and great-grandparents. They toiled and spilt blood, sweat and tears to ensure we all can now enjoy a better life than they did. We all owe it to them to protect them from this “unseen enemy”.
We owe it to them to ensure we do all in our power both at a national level and community level to secure their safety. Let us do right by the elderly of this population.