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TCI father says, “I tried everything” as he talked about feeling abandoned by TCI Gov’t and NHIP in saving his little girl

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#Providenciales, August 28, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – A Turks and Caicos family today, tearfully shared their traumatic experience of trying to get medical care for their young daughter, who was diagnosed with lung cancer after being moved from hospital to hospital and who tragically died on July 17; now, that family just wants Zharyia Lavonne to be flown home from England.

Even the return of six-year-old Zharyia Stubbs to the Turks and Caicos Islands has reportedly been botched by those whom the family entrusted with the process. 

The funeral home in the United Kingdom and the National Health Insurance Board in the TCI had all of the requisite documents, media was told, three weeks before the funeral date.  Still there was a confusion that led to a delay which resulted in the child missing her own funeral, which was to be held this past Saturday August 24, 2019 at Jericho Baptist Church.

Ira Stubbs is Zharyia’s father and he explained that both he and his wife, Zshanai have been contributors to the National Health Insurance Plan for years and yet, when the time came for urgent, life-saving medical care for their youngest child, the system failed miserably.  Mr. Stubbs said he felt abandoned and that the string of letdowns caused his daughter her life.

Zharyia began visiting the hospital for respiratory problems when she was just three-years-old.  Mr. Stubbs said he suspected her problem to be asthma as the family has a long history of the condition.  However, according to diagnoses, her condition was not asthma and eventually Zharyia was flown to Doctors’ Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas.

Mr. Stubbs said he was satisfied with the treatment there.

Zharyia was healthier after her time at hospital in Nassau and the referral by Doctors’ Hospital for further medical attention was to a respiratory specialist. 

The family explained that with no lung specialist at Doctors’ Hospital and none in the Turks and Caicos, arrangements were made by the National Health Insurance Plan for the child to see the recommended specialist in the Dominican Republic.  In the DR, the service was described as terrible; there was a language barrier and there was no translator to help the family transition.

Mr. Stubbs also accused the health practitioners in the Dominican Republic of being corrupt in some instances and, he reported that they gave his child subpar medical care.  Suspected errors in Zharyia’s treatment, including medication with which her father did not agree all worked to cause his daughter’s condition to worsen, believes Ira Stubbs.

In the Dominican Republic was where Zharyia received the diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer.

Father, mother and three siblings told the story and responded to questions in a press conference held this morning at Hemmingway’s Restaurant at the Sands at Grace Bay in Providenciales.  The family was given a week’s accommodation at the Sands by the Hartlings as help in this time of desperate need.

Funds, said Mr Stubbs, are depleted and now he plans to wait for Zharyia to be transported home and then it will be back to the United Kingdom, to get his three other young children settled into school.

In the account, Mr. Stubbs said his daughter was bounced from health care institution to health care institution in a system that failed his family; The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Canada and the United Kingdom were cited in his report.

In Canada, care was really good, Mr. Stubbs said.  Zharyia was airlifted to Toronto from the Dominican Republic due to her father’s relentlessness in getting help.  That pursuit took him to the Premier and Finance Minister, Sharlene Robinson who intervened and got approval for Zharyia and both her parents to be medically evacuated to a children’s hospital in Toronto.

Again, there was a hitch when only one parent was allowed to go and when it took one week before the medical team from Canada could stabilize Zharyia in order for her to travel.  There had been questions, said Mr. Stubbs, about the quality of care for Zharyia in the DR by the Canadian medics.

Help for the child was good in at the children’s hospital but it was also limited.  A lung transplant was seen as the only way Zharyia would survive and go on to live a healthy, normal life. 

Again, her father Ira Stubbs, began working.  Dropping off sponsor letters and writing to people and telling his story to media all in the hopes that it would help to raise the profile of the case and raise the $320,000 necessary for the transplant.

Once again, it meant a move for the now, five-year-old little girl who her father said was in excruciating pain.  Her trip home to Providenciales, said Ira Stubbs, was meant to be a maximum 30-days.  Instead it was three months and hindered, reported the family by an unwillingness for the child’s ‘soon to expire’ TCI passport to be fast-tracked or for other arrangements to be made, so that she could travel for medical care.

According to Mr. Stubbs, his daughter picked up on the delays and the frustrations and asked, at one point, ‘why did they do this to me, please continue fighting!’

Those were the moments in the press conference when both mother and father were awash in tears, long pauses by her father to quell the crying and all of the family members at the table were donning t-shirts featuring a radiant portrait of Zharyia; bright eyes and big smile.

“I feel they abandoned us and a vulnerable child,” said Mr. Stubbs.

Eventually, Zharyia made it to further care in the United Kingdom but there too, the Stubbs family felt abandoned by the Turks and Caicos Islands government and the National Health Insurance Plan.

For 30-days the family lived out of a car.  Immigration issues forced a marriage between mother and father in order to bring swift resolve and that flash wedding was said to have taken place at the hospital according to Mr. Stubbs. 

By now Zharyia, who wanted to becoming a doctor was surviving with the help of a ventilator and soon it was clear that money and the transplant were not coming.

Zharyia died on Wednesday July 17, 2019 at 7pm at the Great Ormand Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) in the UK. 

Medical records, request for a new consultant and the autopsy after Zharyia’s death were all met with little to no response from GOSH, said Mr. Stubbs, who also expressed his disdain for the hospital in London.

“We reported in emails, the mental and physical abuse to NHIP,” but we got no support from NHIP.

It was a complicated story, laced with strong charges and the overwhelming distress of the loss of a child.  The family has also received no counselling and feels out of options.

Mr. Stubbs said he wants his daughter home as promised.  Mr. Stubbs said he also needs financial help to get back on his feet and believes $5,000 is sufficient to pay the penalty on airline tickets and get the family re-settled in the UK.

There was another request to the public for that financial assistance.

Magnetic Media has contacted the National Health Insurance Board; Public Relations executive Joddy Harvey has been responsive and promised there would be some communication on this complex and distressing matter.

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Education

Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge

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By Shaniek Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.

It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.

In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced.  Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations.  The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.

The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season.  The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.

In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.

The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI.  It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.

“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.

Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.

Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.

Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.

“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.

Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.

He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.

“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.

Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.

Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.

 

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Health

Government apologizes to Churches for NEW Covid-19 Testing rule

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#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – The TCI Government is apologizing for including the Church in a new raft of restrictions which mandates unvaccinated congregants be tested in order to be allowed to attend church events however, there is no change in the rule.  The rule is now delayed start for another two weeks following an announcement issued by the Ministry of Health on Thursday evening.

The apology came from Premier Washington Misick in a statement late Wednesday, where he apologized for bunching the church in with restaurants, lounges, bars and discotheques which also have to follow the regulation.

Church pastors speaking with Magnetic Media expressed shock at the announcement which was revealed, on Tuesday, as a cabinet approved decision which also includes mandatory testing for the unvaccinated to attend funerals.

While there has been no official statement from the Turks and Caicos Islands Christian Council or the Pastors Fraternity it was clear that some of the church community seemed prepared to stand firmly against the measure.

The Premier has promised that there will be consultation going forward; beckoning to Churches to comply with the temporary rule which he said would help to curb the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.

 

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Health

Cruising & Caring for Health and Wealth

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – As the cruising industry in Grand Turk continues to get back into full swing with an anticipated four cruises or more per week, Turks and Caicos Islanders who work in the industry will again be interacting with thousands of foreign nationals on a weekly basis.

Normally this would be a cause for celebration and it is, but with the world in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and especially in light of the newest variant, the rules have changed.

As researchers find more information in regards to Omicron it is becoming increasingly clear that while the variant may be slightly milder than others its transmissibility is a major treat to populations, economies and health systems everywhere.

The following are tips that will help balance TCI tourism workers’ income and their safety, or as government often puts it, “lives and livelihoods”.

 

Prior Preparation.

Masks have become a part of life since the beginning of the pandemic, some wear them for safety, others because they are mandated. Nearly all of us have experienced that ‘oh no’ moment when we realize we’ve left our mask behind, it’s a funny anecdote to represent our new normal in theory.

In reality it can be dangerous, life threatening even, to be without protective measures especially for vendors who interact with international visitors all day long.

This means prior preparation is key. Outfit your stall with masks and the recommended cleaning agents, have extras on hand so you never get caught without. If possible put the required distance between your own stall and your neighbors. If possible create dividers for yourself and tourists that will allow you to interact safely. Place reminders in the form of signs around your stall so guests are not tempted to flout safety measures.

 

In the Moment

Cruise days can be hectic, there are so many people and so little time but as you rush to make your sales or braid hair it is important to keep safety protocols in mind.

Always maintain social distancing between yourself and guests, this is especially important in high volume situations like this as guests can be asymptomatic.

If you operate a business that will not allow you to do so e.g. hair braiding, keep your mask on at all times and insist that your guests do so as well.

Limit the amount of guests allowed in your space at once.

Establish rigorous and frequent cleaning protocols, as guests move around in their excitement they may forget to sanitize. Clean surfaces regularly with the recommended products to prevent lingering traces of anything dangerous.

 

Aftercare

When guests have departed and it’s time to close up shop don’t skip any steps that could undo a successful day of safe practices.

Wash your money, it may seem strange but bills are made from durable paper that is not susceptible to tearing or water-wear. Washing your bills and coins gently will not hurt them but will protect you from any lingering viruses. Clean regularly touched areas and items. Get tested regularly, that way if you do get infected you will be in the know early. If you feel ill, immediately self-isolate and test to confirm if you have COVID or not. Deep clean your stall regularly, disinfecting as many areas as you can.

Covid-19 has forced us into a new normal but Turks and Caicos Islanders are resilient, it is possible to balance safety and profit, remember to wash your hands and obey all the protocols so the TCI can come out of this Pandemic with as little losses as possible.

 

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