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Don't use me as scapegoat

■ Anna Ramdass


COUVA HOSPITAL Medical Chief of Staff Dr Don Martin said he is being used as a 'scapegoat' as he never requested that senior specialist doctors be rotated out of hospital during the most critical time in the Covid crisis.

He said the move is unwise, demoralising and the team is left heartbroken as they have been the main 'family' in the Covid fight for over a year at the Couva Hospital and Multi- Training Facility.

The North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) issued a release on Thursday night stating it had implemented a rotation of doctors to prevent 'burnout' after repeated requests from Dr Martin.

The Express contacted Martin by phone yesterday to ask him about the rotation system and the burnout doctors were said to be experiencing.

An upset-sounding Martin said his name on the NCRHA news release was a surprise to him.

'I'm thoroughly upset about it. I think I'm being used as a scapegoat for that decision because I would never suggest such a decision in the midst of the worst Covid wave we've ever seen. I would never suggest that we would rotate at a critical time the most senior staff and the most experienced staff at the facility in a crisis situation,' he said.

'Why would one rotate out all your clinical heads at a critical time? Your Medical Chief of Staff, your heads of department. There are other underlying issues and it's sad because we've become a very tightknit group,' he added.

Martin said globally the pandemic has impacted on medical teams and created anxiety.

'There is anxiety throughout the world, we've been fighting Covid for over a year, we are more or less like a family, and we fight together, and we feel comfortable fighting together, and actually that's how we cope, and to destabilise that family now, I cannot see how that is the wisest decision and to say I was the one who suggested this, I'm quite upset about it,' he said.

Martin said last year he did suggest a rotation system but it was at a time when the numbers were fewer.

He said he suggested a pooling of human resources in the parallel health care system.

'After that surge in August/September I realised there were only a few people who were willing to fight Covid but this was suggested in the down time....when things were quiet, low occupancy that we should find that time to rotate out the staff, let them get de-stressed, let persons who never worked in a Covid facility get familiar with the facility, and that will help to train persons and also dispel some anxieties associated with working with Covid because Covid has anxiety, some persons have trepidation entering into that environment,' he said.

Sharing the load

Martin said the latest Covid wave last year had put pressure but the system is working with other institutions operationalised.

'There was a lot of anxiety because the task seemed daunting because Couva at one point was, it still is the epicentre, the main hospital admitting Covid patients. 'At one point we were admitting over 25 patients per night without patients being discharged soon and we saw the numbers mounting, and we're wondering how are we alone going to support this nation in terms of the Covid fight.

'A lot of that anxiety was dispelled when other facilities opened up and there was the sharing of the load,' he said.

Questioned about the current high Covid death toll, Martin said it's a global issue.

'It is a very severe disease. Worldwide many have died, even in the First World with the best medicine, it is a very bad disease and this is a very bad wave,' he said.

Asked if he believes the team should stay in place at Couva, Martin said at this time is it critical.

'I think it should, this is one of the strongholds, this is how we have been battling for over a year. We have the most experience, we have the clinical disciplines required. It is very daunting that they would do that and I would not be the one to specifically say to break up my team at this point in time,' he said. 'Why not intervene and have stakeholder discussions to clarify what are the issues. To me it comes across as a divide and conquer. You break my time to bits, a family unit. It's not only the doctors, I can tell you there are nurses right now who are quite upset. The entire hospital that is quite upset,' he said. Stressing that said the move has affected the medicalteam,hesaid: 'It is demoralising because we have been devoted, we never backed down from the job.'

Bombshell decision

Martin said the decision to rotate the staff was presented at a meeting and came as a 'bombshell'.

He said it was then presented as if he was the driver behind it. Martin said there have been no meetings with the chief executive officer. 'It is being presented that we are burning out. No. We are just asking for a little support and a some gratitude. Many of juniors have been in that institution, trained, went abroad, came back and many of them came to fight in Couva because of me, so I feel even more responsible for what is happening to them,' he said. 'Right now I'm having more anxiety being away from the institution than being in the institution. That is how devout we are, we love the institution, we've had plans even outside of Covid what we could do with the institution, so it's been a labour of love for us and we don't complain much unless we need the support and that's it,' he added.

FLASHBACK, FEBRUARY 17: Dr Don Martin, Medical Chief of Staff at the Couva Hospital, receives the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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