Atoll council: Refusal to allow COVID-19 patient entrance to Vilingili is uncivilized, inhumane

Residents of G. A. Vilingili gather to protest the transfer of a COVID-19 patient on August 31, 2020. (Photo/Reader Contribution)

G. A. Atoll Council has issued a statement condemning the move by several locals from G. A. Vilingili to bar entrance to a COVID-19 patient from G. Dh. Thinadhoo who was being transferred to the COVID-19 medical facility located in the island, describing the move as uncivilized and inhumane.

The patient from Thinadhoo was evacuated to Vilingili on a sea ambulance for transfer to the COVID-19 medical facility, established to serve as the regional facility to treat COVID-19 patients, at approximately 11:30 am this Monday. However, the sea ambulance had to return to Thinadhoo with the patient after several locals staged a demonstration and refused to allow the patient entrance to the island.

Shareef Ahmed, manager of G. A. Atoll Hospital in Vilingili, said the sea ambulance waited two and a half hours with the patient outside of Vilingili before turning back to Thinadhoo. He said that the sea ambulance returned to Thinadhoo at the request of the patient after the long wait.

The COVID-19 patient from Thinadhoo is a man of 68 years of age. Health protocols require for all COVID-19 patient above the age of 65 year, who are at greater risk of developing serious illness, to be hospitalized.

In a statement on Monday evening, G. A. Atoll Council said it condemns the move by a few people from Vilingili to obstruct the transfer of the elderly patient in the harshest terms, in the name of all residents of the atoll.

The council noted that patients from G. A. Atoll and G. Dh. Atoll must be allowed to be treated in the Vilingili facility, which is one of five regional facilities established to treat COVID-19 patients. The council also noted that protocol dictates that patients above the age of 65 years, and patients who develop complications must be treated in designated facilities.

The council said that the patient from Thinadhoo, who tested positive on Saturday, therefore must be allowed to be treated at the facility in Vilingili.

“We therefore condemn the uncivilized and inhumane actions of a few residents of Vilingili today, and appeal to relevant authorities to find all those who were involved and take harsh action against them,” said the council in its statement.

G. A. Atoll Council president Ahmed Fuad himself described the actions as inhumane, and said that patients must be treated, no matter what the circumstances.

“Severe action needs to be taken against those who participated in this and those who encouraged this,” he said.

One of the protesters told Sun that Vilingili residents were opposed to allowing COVID-19 patients into the island because the facility in Vilingili is not equipped to treat patients. He said the facility only had one ventilator, did not have testing facilities, and was short of doctors and nurses.

Vilingili Council president Musthafa Mohamed told Sun that the protest was staged by activists from PPM, and was politically motivated.

Home Minister Abdulla Imran has also responded to the incident, stating that obstruction of the public health system will not be condoned under any circumstances, and that the authorities will investigate the incident and take necessary action.