Préfet of the Guadeloupe Region Alexandre Rochatte.
MARIGOT–The Préfecture and regional health agency ARS have refuted the suggestion by a doctor’s collective that the new Préfet of Guadeloupe, Alexandre Rochatte, was infected with coronavirus COVID-19 in St. Martin while on a courtesy visit.
“Neither the Préfecture of St. Martin and Saint-Barthélemy nor the Préfecture of Guadeloupe indicated in their respective communications that the Préfet of the Region of Guadeloupe had been infected in St. Martin,” the Préfecture said in a release.
“Préfet Alexandre Rochatte took a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test 72 hours before going to Guadeloupe and then took a second test seven days later which proved positive. This is a fact which does not lead to any other conclusion. In the current state of scientific knowledge on COVID-19 it is therefore surprising to find such an assertion made in a communication written by doctors.”
The Préfecture and ARS responded to the letter signed by 15 doctors on September 2 denouncing the border controls. They pointed out the mistaken reference in the doctor’s letter to “sous-préfecture” which has not existed in St. Martin since 2009.
The rise of COVID-19 cases in the past two months has had a significant impact on Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital and its front-line medical personnel, the Préfecture explained. Some 15 patients carrying the virus have been hospitalised. In three weeks, three patients have died, bringing the number of deceased to seven since March 1.
A significant part of the bed capacity in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital in Guadeloupe is occupied by people originating from St. Martin. This is considered a very abnormal situation given the diversity of the population of the two islands.
“Louis-Constant Fleming is under pressure due to the current resurgence of infections. The activities of the medicine and surgery departments had to be stopped to increase the capacity of the COVID-19 unit from eight beds to 24. This situation has had an impact on patients not suffering from COVID-19. [A total of 11 – Ed.] hospital staff [members] have also been infected and four cases are still active.
“To ensure the resilience of our health system, protective measures are needed to avoid a massive influx of serious cases of COVID-19,” the release continues. “Guadeloupe is also placed in the zone of active circulation of the virus. In spite of the greater resources available, the Guadeloupe Hospital is in a tense situation too. Our collective priority must therefore be to reduce the number of people getting infected.”
The Préfecture points out that contrary to what is indicated without prior verification by the authors of the letter, people who live on the Dutch side of St. Maarten/St. Martin have no difficulty in accessing health care because they are automatically granted a pass on presentation of proof of medical reasons.
In conjunction with the Ministry of Overseas France, the borders are controlled to contain the epidemic and protect the health system. The mixing of populations is the main drive for transmission of the virus. The early reopening of the border would destroy all the progress that has been made. The fragile health of part of the population is another factor to be taken into account.
The Préfecture is surprised that even though they are very close to their patients, some doctors on the island are not alarmed that their patients have not had access to medical care since the beginning of the crisis. Health personnel have been provided with sanitising gel and visors since the beginning of the crisis.
For its part, ARS offers permanent support by facilitating testing, contact-tracing, isolating infected persons and patient care.