By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The Trinidad and Tobago Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) is collaborating with the Foundation for the Enhancement and Enrichment of Life (FEEL) to give food support to persons disadvantaged because of COVID-19.
“SVP recognises that more persons especially from the entertainment sector and other businesses who closed their doors because of COVID-19, may require basic food items should their supplies be exhausted,” SVP National President Angelique Taylor said in an emailed response to questions from the Catholic News.
Several businesses have closed to avoid socialising in close proximity. Government recently amended the Public Health Ordinance Regulations Legal Notice 57 to prevent gatherings at bars, clubs, cinemas, gaming houses, religious or ecclesiastical services where numbers exceed ten. Persons breaking the restrictions face a fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months.
The SVP partnership with FEEL is for the supply of relief products—pelau packs, basic food items including rice, milk, beans etc. These will be distributed through the SVP Head Office, Duncan Street, Port of Spain. “We are still in discussion with FEEL to offer a COVID survival pack,” Taylor stated.
She referred to the additional economic burden with the continued fall in oil prices and the panic buying of grocery items which place families at the community and parish level at greater risk in securing food for their day-to-day survival.
Taylor said, “Our service and call to action must continue but not be compromised. As such members (Vincentians) are urged to explore more creative methods to stay in touch and serve the poor without extra exposures”. The Society’s Conferences (branches) were asked to inform the Head Office should they require food items for families they served.
Staff to receive PPE
The SVP has cancelled all visits by the public to its homes and institutions until further notice. It runs geriatric homes in Diego Martin, Arima, Belmont, Santa Cruz, San Fernando and Mason Hall, Tobago, serves mentally ill residents in Barataria and Duncan Street, the homeless at the Centre for Socially Displaced Persons (CSDP), Riverside Carpark and children living with HIV at the Cyril Ross Nursery.
Groceries or financial assistance donations to facilities will be received by a security guard or a designated person at the home or institution. Taylor said the website www.ssvptt.org can be visited for pledge donations or delivered to parish offices with ‘SVP’ written on envelopes.
The local SVP has received recommendations and guidelines from the Council General International (CGI), the parent body of the Society worldwide.
Taylor said extensive discussion on the state of preparedness for COVID-19 was held on March 12, at the SVP monthly meeting of managers. They were given personal protective equipment (PPE) inclusive of latex gloves, medical scrubs, hand sanitisers, hand soaps and facial masks.
“We have posted up information and supplied the staff of the homes/institutions with sanitiser sprays/liquids to be dispensed upon entry to each home/institution inclusive of soap and water and additional measures for sanitising their person,” Taylor said. If supplies are depleted staff is encouraged to “utilise homemade remedies”.
Some homes have medical personnel on-call, and otherwise hotlines for County Medical Officers of Health for different districts were shared. Caregivers are to closely monitor residents inclusive of persons with high blood pressure. Contact numbers were issued for any emergencies.
Managers of homes and institutions were asked to compile a database with their clients’ information and pre-existing ailments for administrative use to determine high-risk residents.
“This is to be used to seek further advice and guidance from medical practitioners from the Ministry of Health on how to treat with high risk residents,” Taylor said.
She added, “Staff members would be selected to act as Shift Wardens to ensure other staff members comply with set COVID precautionary safety measures. This is to prevent contagion of both residents and staff at the homes.”
Other measures include preparing an isolation room to reduce possible contagion of the virus, displaying information on personal hygiene and sanitary practices at entrances, bathrooms and lobbies at SVP homes.
Taylor said, “We recognise that persons learn and receive information differently and may not be inclined to read the barrage of information being posted up…to this effect, we are in discussion with the Ministry of Health to have their Education Unit conduct sensitisation sessions with our staff and residents”.
An infectious disease policy and strategy is being prepared for circulation and implementation.
Taylor said staff has offered to work longer hours if needed to support homes “should casualties arise”. The SVP will continue working with the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services and the Mayor of Port of Spain to address the socially displaced persons who continue to congregate at Town Council Street, below the CSDP.
The SVP has postponed its Lenten Retreat scheduled for March 21, Presidents Training March 28, Top of the Mount Brunch April 19, and SVP Sports and Rally Day carded for May 17.