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COVID-19 And Behind The Scene Battles: James Fong

“We had 18 total cases and out of 18, we had only six index cases. The rest of the 12 came out of the two cases. And those two cases required all the necessary lockdown measures that we took. When we have that kind of scenario, it becomes difficult to have that level of sympathy for the individual from the public.
06 Dec 2020 10:36
COVID-19 And Behind The Scene Battles: James Fong

Fiji has been fortunate not to have had any case of community transmission. Ministry of Health and Medical Services Permanent Secretary Doctor James Fong said their teams had been able to identify the contacts of all positive cases.

Speaking at the final day of the 22nd Attorney-General’s conference yesterday, Dr Fong talked candidly about the difficult decisions that had to be made even before the first positive case was announced in Fiji.

Some of the behind the scene decisions which Dr Fong and his team had to make was right down to whether any of the positive cases should have a tube inserted to allow them to breathe. Something of this nature may not be of interest to many Fijians, but for Dr Fong and his team, these decisions and more had to be well thought out to ensure the best possible protocols and strategies were put in place.

Dr Fong also shared the story of a patient who had consecutively tested positive. However, in the midst of his many tests, the science around COVID-19 changed.

“Halfway through this, the science changed and the transmission protocol changed,” he said.

“The patient was within his right to tell me, Dr Fong if I was somewhere else, I would have been discharged seven times already. And he did say this to me, but if we had let him go, people would have said “unfair, he is still testing positive”.

Using this example, Dr Fong talked about how hard his team has been working to harness public trust. He said an educated person would come up to him and talk about the measures he has put in place to ensure he does not breach isolation protocols. To others, that may be seen as a case of favouritism.

He explained that apart from fighting the battle against COVID-19, his team had to also fight the battle of public perception.

 

Their plan

“There were a number of strategies and plans drawn up even before Fiji had its first case. A taskforce was ready and wrote a lot of protocols. Travel advisories were issued even before the first case. We strengthened our system, upgraded our labs and recruited a number of community facilities so that we always had facilities ready,” he said.

“The plan was to always have 50 beds available ahead of the last positive case. We then ran around house-to-house doing mobile fever clinics.

“We responded rapidly and early. We responded massively with one case.

“We had the Prime Minister talking to us every single day going through a presentation every day and that got us thinking on what new to tell him daily,” Dr Fong said.

 

Public backlash:

“We had 18 total cases and out of 18, we had only six index cases. The rest of the 12 came out of the two cases. And those two cases required all the necessary lockdown measures that we took. When we have that kind of scenario, it becomes difficult to have that level of sympathy for the individual from the public.

“The perception was that a small group of people were responsible for the big problem,” he said.

And, correcting that perception became another battle for Dr Fong and his team.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

 

 



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