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Parents verbally abused Covid-19 official, Pati records show

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The Covid-19 testing site Hamilton at the Perot Post Office on Queen Street (File photograph)

An official suffered verbal abuse from some parents when children were being screened to attend schools, a testing coordinator told senior civil servants.

Tarik Bean-Darrell urged the Department of Education to address the problem when it emerged last October.

He wrote in an e-mail: “On both Saturday and Sunday the med lead at Perot Post Office had to endure verbal abuse from a few parents wanting their child to be tested at a time they are not supposed to be there or they was trying to get to the front of the line because they couldn’t wait in line.

“This is not acceptable and the staff should not have to endure this abuse from anyone.

“The Ministry of Health is aware of these issues and are asking if you could please reiterate to school principals that anyone who is disrespectful [to] testing team staff will be turned away from the security personnel on site and asked to leave without being tested.”

The message, dated October 18, 2021, was included in copies of correspondence released by the Ministry of Education in response to a Public Access to Information request from The Royal Gazette.

Mr Bean-Darrell, whose e-mail showed that he was a logistics and testing coordinator for the Bermuda Molecular Diagnostics and Research Laboratory, wrote: “Also many children under the age of 16 are attending the testing site without their parents, guardian or an adult.

“We will not be able to test these children without an adult present because they are still minors and need adult supervision.”

Crystal Lightbourne, an operations officer for the pandemic response team, thanked Mr Bean-Darrell for raising the concerns.

She said: “I agree, the staff should not have to endure any form of disrespect.

“They have worked extremely hard, non stop for the past two years to assist the entire community during these uncertain times.”

Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, replied to Mr Bean-Darrell and said that the concerns were discussed over the phone the previous day.

She added that she was “extremely sorry to learn that there were some parents who were abusive” to testing staff.

Ms Richards said: “As shared when we spoke, I will address this matter with school principals tomorrow and when we send the notification to parents about testing, we will ensure that we include expectations for their conduct and what action will be taken, should they not comply.

“Additionally, we will add to the notification a request for parents to be present at the testing site for all students 16 years and under, in order for them to be tested.

“MDL and the DOH [Department of Health] have our full support and we are thankful for the great work that you do.”

The Ministry of Education was contacted for comment but none was received by press time.

Bermuda Molecular Diagnostics and Research Laboratory: Pictured- Dr Carika Weldon (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Gazette asked the Ministry of Education for copies of correspondence that related to Carika Weldon, a former Government science adviser and MDL director, between the minister or any acting minister, the commissioner, the ministry and its officials over the 12 months from January 14, 2021.

Records released also showed how ministers and others were grateful for people working together to overcome obstacles in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Several e-mails were sent on October 31, 2021, including from Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, Ms Richards, Denis Pitcher, the co-owner of technology firm resPartner, which trades as resQwest, Giovanni Joseph, head of IT for the Department of Education, and Dr Weldon.

The group was trying to resolve a problem when e-mails containing coronavirus test rsults sent to people with Ministry of Education addresses did not reach their intended recipients.

A “workaround” was in progress by about 1am on November 1.

Ms Richards wrote then: “Great teamwork. Truly appreciate everyone going the extra mile to get the results out.”

Mr Rabain added: “Thanks to all involved for seeking a solution”.

Dr Weldon wrote: “I am glad to see this was tackled as a team and resolved.”

The scientist, who gave notice of her resignation on December 31, 2021, had earlier arranged for saliva testing at Paget Primary School after a Covid-19 exposure in March 2021.

She sent a detailed e-mail highlighting preparations that had taken place and next steps.

Tammy Gibbons, a testing operations officer on the Government’s pandemic response team, replied to say that kits needed for screening students would be ready for Dr Weldon to collect.

David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

David Burt, the Premier, replied to the group: “Thanks to all for working together to make this a reality. The country is grateful for your efforts.”

Mr Rabain added: “I wish to echo the comments of the Premier. This will go a long way in ensuring safety and health in our schools, but more importantly, calming people’s fears.”

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Published March 29, 2022 at 7:50 am (Updated March 29, 2022 at 7:50 am)

Parents verbally abused Covid-19 official, Pati records show

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