We all depend on honest reporting of cases of pandemic flu to alert us that a more virulent virus has evolved. Unfortunately, many politicians view H1N1 deaths as “bad press” that they’d rather not acknowledge. This creates a clear conflict of interest for public health authorities who are usually appointed by politicians. Do they do what is best for the public or what their politician-bosses tell them to do? Sadly, it’s usually the latter.
This dangerous drama may be playing out in Trinidad and Tobago.
From Trinidad Express, December 17, 2009:
THE NUMBER of swine flu-related deaths is continuing to rise, but the Ministry of Health refuses to come clean about the pandemic, says Opposition MP Subhas Panday.
Addressing members of the media at a briefing at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Port of Spain yesterday, Panday insisted that, since October, at least 18 people have died at the San Fernando General Hospital from flu-like symptoms, but the Health Ministry has yet to say why or even confirm what their blood samples show.
’These people died from swine flu, but the ministry is not saying that and they have the doctors fighting to save their jobs because they afraid to come out and tell anybody what really happening at that hospital,’ he said.
Panday admitted that he did not know what was happening at the other health facilities, but the death of his niece provided him with the opportunity to get inside the San Fernando General Hospital and question medical officials about the pandemic.
’Nobody wants to talk, they did not even want to talk to me. But I went in there, I went through the system and I asked them everything about this,’ he said while waving around the list he acquired of people who died since October.
The list, which predominantly names people of East Indian descent between the ages of 22 and 52, outlines the age, area and cause of death. And while it was not an official document, Panday said he was able to get the list legally through the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
The doctors have not chosen me as their mouthpiece, but people in this country have a right to know … they listing all these deaths as pneumonia. This is not like a mosquito bite. How could so many people die in one month from the same symptoms?’
Of course, the government denies that it is covering up anything.
From the Trinidad Express, December 17, 2009
Medical Director of San Fernando General Hospital, Dr Anand Chatoorgoon, said last night that the hospital does not have information that 18 patients died at the institution from swine flu.
Chatoorgoon told the Express that ’deaths from bronchial pneumonia as shown on Mr Panday’s list are not necessarily caused by the swine flu’.
He said, ’All patients showing symptoms of the swine flu are admitted to the institution. In some cases, they are sent to the ICU when they are having a breathing problem.’
Chatoorgoon noted that ’it is customary for patients to develop pulmonary embolism simply because they are confined to a bed and blood clots could develop’.
He added, ’The blood tests taken from patients are sent directly to the Ministry of Health in keeping with PAHO’s policy.’
Without the results of real time PCR tests, it is hard to know what is going on in Trinidad and Tobago. However, if an unusually large number of people younger than 65 are dying of a respiratory disease, it is highly likely that pandemic flu is the cause.
Trinidad and Tobago is a small country (population 1,339,000). The 18 deaths are all from one hospital. If there are more deaths in other hospitals, it is important that these be reported as well. If an unusually large number of people are dying, we need to know. It may be the only warning we get that a more dangerous virus is circulating.