There was a “difference of opinion” with Dr Carika Weldon, Premier David Burt said, adding “I understand, recognize and accept that, but the government of Bermuda has to balance all of the challenges.”
The Premier also addressed a question about the staffing for testing saying that “we have to move to a place of sustainability” and the Bermuda Health Council will be issuing directions “to doctors’ offices, to pharmacists, to dental offices, to enable them to be able to administer supervised antigen testing.”
Premier Burt was speaking during a live BNV interview yesterday where he answered a number of reader questions spanning topics including testing, travel authorization, vaccination for children, SafeKey, curfew, his vacation, tourism, minimum wage and more.
Extract from the BNV where the Premier replies to the questions about Dr Weldon & staffing for testing
Dr Carika Weldon
Reader Question: “Why wasn’t Dr. Carika Weldon given the resources she requested, and why isn’t more being done to ensure that her guidance is being followed and perhaps even convince her to return?”
Premier’s Reply: “I will just speak in a broad measure in regards to Dr. Weldon. The first thing is that I was responsible for bringing Dr. Weldon to Bermuda. I remember sending her a WhatsApp message describing the challenges which we had, and it was an incredible amount of work that has been done by Dr. Weldon…by all of the public health teams throughout this pandemic.
“The question says advice which was given. The government of Bermuda, and the Ministers are charged with policy decisions, not public servants, and it was the determination of the government of Bermuda, which I think is supported widely by parents across this country, is that the best place for students to be is in school learning in classrooms.
“There was a difference of opinion, I understand, recognize and accept that, but the government of Bermuda has to balance all of the challenges there. And we recognize that there was some inconvenience with the delayed and staggered return to school, but I think that would pale in the comparison to some of the recommendations that were given to start school remotely for two or three weeks. I do not believe that that would’ve been the proper course of action.
“Here we are today on Monday, where all of our preschools are open, all of our primary schools say for one are open and all of our middle schools say for one are open. Our high schools are on remote learning and there will be interruptions as we go forward. But what we want to do is to keep faith with what we promised the parents of this country is that we are going to do what we can to ensure that there is a safe environment in schools for our students, and we know that they learn better, it is better for their emotional and mental health and their development to be in school learning.”
The Premier, Colonel Burch, Dr Weldon & Minister Wilson at the official opening of MDL Lab in July 2021
Closing Staffing Gap
Reader Question: “What steps or solutions are government considering for closing the staffing gap for testing?”
Premier’s Reply: “We speak about the staffing gap and I was brought up to date on this. There was a request that came into the government for additional staff last week, Monday, and it was approved on the same day last week, Monday.
“Certainly it does take time to onboard persons, but the approvals were given on the same day, which they were received, and I know that additional staff have started working in the laboratory already.
“It certainly is a challenge when we have these types of spikes and backups, that much is accepted. And I want to certainly apologize to persons who were certainly inconvenienced. I recognize that there were persons who had travel plans changed, but I also want to pay homage to the public officers who responded quickly, who implemented alternative plans, who put in place overnight, antigen testing at the airport to address the issues which we face there.”
“What’s most important is on long term, we talk about the staffing gap, we have to move to a place of sustainability when it comes to the coronavirus response. And so I understand that the Bermuda Health Council will be issuing directions today to doctors’ offices, to pharmacists, to dental offices, to enable them to be able to administer supervised antigen testing throughout the country.
“The testing backlog can’t just be on the government. If we’re going to move ourselves to a place of living with the coronavirus, there needs to be multiple spaces for access to testing throughout the country, and we’re going to make sure that happens.
“And I would urge persons to encourage their doctor’s offices, their family doctor’s offices, and certainly I know that there’ll be pharmacists that will be on board to assist in this regard, and I think that that will certainly help the situation as well.”
You can watch the full 35-minute BNV video here, read the extract on travel authorization here and read extracts on the quarantine period, whether we will see vaccine mandates, and vaccination for children here.