'We are bursting at the seams'
Spike in COVID-19 cases putting more pressure on hospitalsSaturday, February 27, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
HOSPITALS are facing serious challenges as the number of COVID-19 cases increase, putting doctors, nurses and other health care staff under tremendous pressure.
University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) Chief Executive Officer Kevin Allen told the Jamaica Observer that not many beds for COVID-19 patients are available at the regional institution and has asked patients to “hold out” if their situation is not severe.
“What we are saying is if you're not in a dire emergency and you can hold out, you don't use the Type A hospital. Go to your health centre.” Allen pleaded.
“We need a policy decision still because the thing is more people are coming down with the virus. It is difficult. We are not turning away anybody. We are expanding currently to accommodate more patients diagnosed with the virus. We have tents on the outside and from time to time, they are full. We clear them, and then they are full again. People keep coming down with the virus,” he said.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton revealed on Tuesday that 40 nurses have been recruited to work overseas since the start of the year, contributing to a shortage of health care workers amid the pandemic.
To help the situation at UHWI, Allen has appealed to retired nurses who still think that they have a something to give to come on board and help. “I can't speak to the take up now, because we just put that out. It rough.”
Just three days ago, the UHWI made an appeal to the doctors and hospitals referring patients to make contact in advance. “Our COVID capacity is roughly about 40 beds and we kinda manage within that range. This morning (Thursday) we are at 40, with about eight or nine patients in isolation. So, we are about 10 over, should those results come back positive,” said Allen.
“Thank you to the staff… our doctors, our nurses, our physiotherapists who are there day in, day out and offering care to these patients. They are pretty stretched. And the fact that we have members who are moving onto greener pastures further compounds the problem,” said Allen.
Up to Thursday Jamaica had 414 COVID-19 deaths from 22,471 cases recorded. There were 13,231 people who have recovered, and 8,608 active cases. The country, up to Thursday, had done 202,099 COVID-19 tests islandwide.
Chief executive officer of May Pen Hospital St Andrade Sinclair told the Observer that the facility was overcrowded.
“The capacity of the hospital is 170 and we are now at 205 up to this morning (Thursday). We are bursting at the seams. Our COVID ward is near capacity as well. That is close to maximum… it's not there yet because we still have about three or four beds available, but we can see the rise every day. The wards are crowded and the Accident and Emergency Department is also getting crowded. So, we are being challenged in every way with our resources.”
However, Sinclair maintained that no patient will be turned away.
“We haven't joined that faction yet. If it exists, we are not in that type of business. All patients that approach us are assessed, evaluated and admitted if they need to be. We don't turn anybody away.”
Added Sinclair: “Everybody is under pressure. Every health care worker on the planet is under pressure. Not just any one set. We have anticipated all of this from as far back as April. And we have already retrofitted a ward to be a COVID ward. We converted it into a state-of-the-art COVID ward for our suspected and confirmed cases. It was an existing ward, which was the female surgical ward and we converted it.”
Likewise, the Linstead Public Hospital, which is much smaller, had to create a 24-bed ward for COVID patients in September of last year. Overall, the hospital has an 84-bed capacity.
“We are not overwhelmed yet. We have space because we had created an area at a space we would normally use for maternity services, and that's where we are seeing patients who have been tested and waiting for results. It's not full now… we haven't reached full capacity as yet,” CEO Paul McIntyre said.
He said the hospital is “managing and coping”.
“We don't reach the stage yet where we are overwhelmed. And we are trying to see if those who can be discharged be discharged so we can get other space for others. If we reach the stage where we are overburdened, we plan to create some new space.”
Nonetheless, McIntyre said he has also seen an uptick in COVID cases.
“All the hospitals are seeing this increase. We are more like a referral hospital. So, most of our cases when we get them, we either transfer patients to Kingston Public Hospital, Spanish Town Hospital or National Chest Hospital. And if it gets to a point where they can't take them, we have to keep them,” he said.
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