By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff reporter
A GRIEVING family wants the government to better equip Family Islands with the resources needed to treat positive COVID patients after the deadly virus took the life of their loved one last month.
Exuma resident Nioka Taylor, a mother-of-three, lost her battle with the disease on July 27, several days after she was evacuated to New Providence to receive care for symptoms said to be COVID related.
Her daughter, Lendeka Anderson, told The Tribune the family believes the 51-year-old mother could have survived if local medical facilities had been better equipped to deal with her symptoms as opposed to evacuating her New Providence where the public health care system is overwhelmed.
“When she arrived in Nassau, it was very difficult to hear anything. We didn’t hear nothing. “We didn’t know if she reached properly,” her daughter said yesterday.
“And it wasn’t until Monday night going into Tuesday morning, I would say around 11pm, a doctor called my phone and she was basically telling me my mom’s condition and she did swab her again and she tested positive for COVID-19.
“She said it wasn’t really looking good basically and the only thing I can basically do is pray because my mom’s heart rate is speeding up but her breathing rate is slowing down and they had her on oxygen, but she needed to go on a ventilator because (reportedly) there wasn’t anymore ventilators so, it’s really nothing they could have done because the ventilator would’ve helped her breath more.
“They said the only thing I could do is pray because I asked her, ‘do you think my mom is going to be okay’ and they said they’re not sure because one minute COVID patients are here and the next minute they’re not,” the New Providence resident added.
Ms Anderson said the family believes her mother — who had underlying health issues — contracted the virus from someone close to her on the island. Ms Taylor was not vaccinated against COVID-19, her daughter also told this newspaper.
She said the virus caused her mother’s health to deteriorate rapidly. However, she said relatives expected her to make a full recovery as she had overcome health issues in the past.
“My mom got swabbed in Exuma that Saturday. When they tested her, they told her it would take three to five days (before) it would come back and she went back home. My sister said she started to feel sick and she was not responding well,” Ms Anderson told this newspaper.
“She wasn’t talking and she wasn’t seeing anything or eating. She didn’t have any smell or taste. She was having the symptoms of COVID, vomiting, diarrhea all of that. Sunday, my sister said she made her a cup of tea and she really couldn’t hold the tea. She dropped the tea.
“And Sunday night or early Monday morning, like around 2am, my sister said she went in her room and she wasn’t really responding... so my sister decided that she was going to take my mom to the clinic because she sleeps with a breathing machine every night because she’s a diagnosed heart patient.”
Ms Anderson said it took several hours for health officials to get her mother evacuated to New Providence.
“They had her there from 2am until 8pm and they decided that they’re going to airlift her to Nassau because they can’t really deal with her,” she said.
Days later, the family received the worst call of their life when doctors informed them of Ms Taylor’s death.
Ms Anderson said the family has more questions than answers surrounding her mother’s death.
“They had her on regular oxygen machine but she needed more than that because the doctor told me that her heartbeat was speeding up and her oxygen was slowing down so she needed to be incubated and given a ventilator and it was no space and they (allegedly) didn’t have any,” Ms Anderson said.
“So, from you tell me that, we didn’t know what condition she was in because we can’t go up to the hospital to see her. The doctors are not calling properly because she was there from Monday at 8am and someone didn’t call me until 11pm that night and we never hear from someone until Wednesday morning and someone called my sister who lives in Exuma with her and told her your mom has passed and they’re calling from a COVID-19 unit and her body is starting to deteriorate so please come and get her body.
“Where the hospital is overcrowded, why don’t you make an alternative where you could have hospitals stationed on other Family Islands? Like Exuma has a mini hospital you know but they’re just not fully equipped with doctors or equipment. If they had it, she could’ve stayed and that’s the thing.”
When asked if the public health has sufficient resources like ventilators to deal with the current surge of cases, former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands told The Tribune: “Let me put it this way, we have a finite number of ventilators, high flow circuits, critical care beds, nurses etc and so you try to make do with what you have.
“Do we have an ideal number based on the fact that we have some 120 or so patients admitted in the country now with COVID? No we don’t and so you find and we have talked about this before, you find physicians, nurses etc making decisions on the basis of the greater good for the greatest number… because you do not have an infinite number of critical care nurses or an infinite number of ventilators or an infinite number of rooms.”
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Pearl McMillan recently said health officials continue to work to increase medical supply amid increasing COVID-related hospitalisations.