Grenadians abroad rally in support of their country’s COVID battle

By Lincoln DePradine

Doctors in Grenada at a COVID vaccination and testing clinic

Grenadians in Toronto have responded to an appeal for COVID-related assistance for their Caribbean homeland, where the Coronavirus has killed more than 130 people in the past six weeks. Another 1,500 have been described as “active’’ positive cases and are in isolation.

“This week, we’re shipping 14 skids of hand sanitizers and 14 skids of rubber boots to Grenada,’’ Unison Joseph, president of Grenada Disaster Preparedness Toronto, told The Caribbean Camera.

The assistance drive, which also involves collaboration with other organizations such as the Grenada Association, Grenada Independence Planning Committee, Boca Toronto Support Group and the Nurses’ Association, follows a request for help from Grenada, made through the Office of Diaspora Affairs headed by Derrick James, former consul general to Toronto. The office has made similar requests to Grenadian Diaspora communities in other cities in Canada and the United States.

According to Grenada’s government information service (GIS), “the rising number of cases has created a strain on the healthcare system and has also resulted in nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers, having to work extended shifts as they care for the increased number of hospitalized persons’’.

Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, has appealed for foreign aid, stressing the need for a field hospital while meeting separately with Chinese ambassador to Grenada, Wei Hongtian, and Linda Taglialatela, the Barbados-based U.S. ambassador to Grenada and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean.

Unison Joseph (left) and Grenada Disaster Preparedness Toronto member, Maurice Charles

The work of Grenadian healthcare workers, including professionals from St George’s University, has been augmented with the arrival of at least two overseas medical teams. One was a group of medical doctors from Mexico.

The other was a three-member delegation led by Grenada-born pastor and medical doctor Philip Bonaparte.

The Bonaparte-led team provided support at the General Hospital in St George’s. Bonaparte also made a donation of supplies that included personal protective equipment.

In the continuing supply drive for Grenada, the Toronto organizations are soliciting other items such as oxygen tanks; oxygen concentrators; face masks and face shields; nebulizers; medical and patient gowns; vitamin C; food packages; glucometers; and pulse oximeters, which are used for monitoring a patient’s oxygen saturation.

“Oximeters are a big one,’’ said Joseph.

He said the groups are receiving a donation to help with the venture from the Grenada Hospitals Assistance Fund, a federally registered Canadian charity set up “with the distinct purpose of raising funds to assist with improving the delivery of healthcare in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique’’

Joseph said more aid, in the form of cash donations, is needed to help with purchasing and shipping supplies to Grenada. “If anyone needs a tax receipt, one can be provided,’’ he explained.

One of the major fundraising undertakings is being spearheaded by a group of US-based medical personnel that includes Grenada-born doctors Lisa Radix and Michele Friday.

Their objective, they say, is “to offer assistance and provide immediate medical support to the healthcare team in Grenada, during this unfolding COVID crisis, to ensure that people of Grenada, and our colleagues on the frontlines taking care of COVID patients, have the best access to available equipment, protection, medicines and devices to care for the ill’’.

They describe their undertaking as an “All hands on Deck” approach that encompasses forming a multi-specialty telemedicine consultation service “to help mitigate the potentially deadly consequences’’ of the virus; and also an ongoing GoFundMe campaign with a target objective of US$250,000. So far, more than $73,000 has been raised.

“I am truly heartened by the outpouring of support and many offers of assistance we are receiving,’’ said Prime Minister Mitchell, who also has expressed hope that Grenada soon will get over the current wave of COVID-19.

As well, he’s urging more Grenadians to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Of Grenada’s 110,000 population, just over 23,500 have received two vaccine doses. More than 34,000 have received only a single dose.