COVID-19 fears heighten at Trelawny Infirmary

Observer West reporter

Thursday, February 18, 2021

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FALMOUTH, TrelawnyWith some seven of the 54 residents and an undetermined number of employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus at the Trelawny Infirmary in Falmouth, the Trelawny Municipal Corporation (TMC) — operators of the facility — is fearful that pending test results could confirm more positive cases at the infirmary.

“So far seven residents have tested positive — five males and two females. I guess it will become worse when all the results are in. You have some of the workers who have tested positive but they are not giving us their names…,” noted a seemingly worried Councillor C Junior Gager, the chairman of the TMC.

“It is a great possibility that when the next set of results are in, it could be more,” he stressed.

To compound the matter, the Icy Allen Centre located on the grounds of the infirmary is full to capacity with individuals who were abandoned by family members at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, St James.

The centre, which opened in March 2009, is a private wing of the Trelawny Infirmary. The facility was constructed and equipped at a cost of $20 million from local and overseas donations.

Gager noted that the municipal corporation would have been able to transfer some residents from the infirmary to the Icy Allen Centre had it not been for the occupation of the centre by the social residents.

“We were saying if there was somewhere else to relocate these social residents, we would be able to spread out a little more, but it is not something we can do to just run them out like that. So, we have to continue the discussions with the Ministry of Health and Wellness,” said Gager, who is also mayor of Falmouth.

Following the detection of the first case of COVID-19 on the island last March, the corporation implemented several measures at the infirmary, aimed at preventing an outbreak of the disease.

The protocols are in keeping with those outlined by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and endorsed by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.

These include the installation of a number of hand washing sinks and sanitising stations strategically placed at various locations on the compound; no visitor allowed on the premises and members of staff must undergo temperature checks and sanitise their hands upon entry.

And speaking with the Jamaica Observer West during a tour — led by Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton — of the building being erected on the grounds of the Falmouth Public General Hospital (FPGH) for a field hospital on Friday, FPGH Chairman Kenneth Hugh Grant bemoaned the worrying issue of social patients at the facility.

“We have patients at the Falmouth hospital and we would like to get them out, but nobody won't come forward and own them, so that burden is like an albatross around our necks,” Grant argued.

He noted that a suggestion was made that the old hospital in Ulster Spring in the southern parts of the parish could be retrofitted to accommodate the social patients to free up bed space at Falmouth.

There is the old hospital up there (Ulster Spring) and... it is just a suggestion there is no plan as yet because there are other plans for it also. We just have to wait and see which will be better. There is a suggestion by the Member of Parliament (for Trelawny Southern) for another plan up there, so I don't know if both could work together,” Grant argued.

For his part, the health and wellness minister served warning that individuals who abandon their relatives in public hospitals could soon be prosecuted.

“We are pursuing the legal option. We want to test the law in court. I can't tell you how it will turn out, but at least it will ventilate the issue,” said Tufton.

Meanwhile, Gager revealed that the municipal corporation and the health department have intensified deep cleaning exercises at the infirmary.

“All measures have been stepped up...the isolation centre is now up and running. The ministry of health is now testing everyone...,” he stressed.

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