Hospital overflow triggers fear in ManchesterSunday, September 05, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
News last week that Mandeville Regional Hospital (MRH) had exceeded capacity and resorted to placing some COVID-19 patients on mattresses and in makeshift bed spaces in the designated area for outpatients switched many Manchester residents to fear mode.
Fifty-eight-year-old Gary Clarke, a fully vaccinated farmer of New Forest, told the Jamaica Observer that the situation in the parish has convinced him that schools cannot return to face-to-face classes.
“I wouldn't advise them fi even open school, because the problem is that it is better you have a living dunce than a dead dunce,” Clarke argued. “Better the children alive more than dem dead. The more they keep away from people, the better. And at school kids are going to play. Kids are kids. Regardless of teacher telling dem stay by themselves dem a go do dem own thing. As soon as teacher nuh deh deh, everybody jumble up.”
Clarke explained why he got the COVID-19 vaccine and encouraged Jamaicans to take it.
“I have an underlying problem, so I went and got my two shots of the AstraZeneca. I have asthma. It's either do or die. A nuh something weh yuh look fah. It's something that a look fi you. And the more you gather around people it's the more it's going to affect you. You have to protect yourself because other persons can't protect you,” he said.
His main concern, he said, is public transportation, as he believes it may be a super spreader of the virus among schoolchildren.
“It's not like they have a bus for just schoolchildren. The children will mix up with everybody out deh. If we have early lockdown and children want to get home quick, taxi man a go pack dem up pon one seat. That is a big problem. We saw what happened when they opened the entertainment sector — everything just go down,” he said.
Like Clarke, Shelly-Ann Williams of Plowden is worried about a spike in cases at the time when schools are supposed to be reopened.
“The main issue is back-to-school with the children. I am a mother of two — ages three and nine — so none of them can get vaccinated. We just have to look to God. They attend New Broughton Primary School. The situation… it is worsening. We just have to do what we have to do,” Williams said.
On August 27 the Ministry of Health and Wellness announced that, effective immediately, public hospitals islandwide will be restricted to conducting emergency case services only, due to increases in confirmed and suspected cases of the novel coronavirus that require hospitalisations, which have caused the facilities to exceed their isolation capacity.
The ministry said hospitals will also suspend elective surgeries and begin discharging patients who can receive home care and asked the public to refrain from visiting emergency departments except in cases warranting serious medical attention.
Commenting on the crisis in a statement from the ministry, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie said: “Most hospitals are over the capacity of beds designated for COVID-19 management. As such, general hospital beds are being used for COVID-19 care. The rising demand for oxygen also threatens to overwhelm the supply.”
At the time of that announcement a record 739 positive COVID-19 patients were in hospital, of which 189 were moderately ill, 92 severely ill and 61 critically ill. There were also another 320 patients suspected to have COVID-19 under hospital care.
Sixty-eight-year-old June Evans felt the effect of the ministry's directive as she told the Sunday Observer that she was alarmed when her 10-year-old grandson was turned away from a public health-care facility due to special attention being given to COVID-19 patients.
Evans claimed that the boy wasn't able to get medical care at Hargreaves Memorial Hospital after an injury until the following day.
“My grandson did deh up a him school a play football and him slide and drop pon him hand and break it. Him mother tek him up to go over the hospital the same day and him never get through. Dem say him haffi mek appointment. Down there full up. Him couldn't do anything more, so him did haffi set appointment and then go back fi set the hand. If a did something more serious me nuh know what we woulda do. Thank God it's not too serious,” she related.
Rupert McLeish, 81, of Long Road, has three health conditions that cause him to frequent MRH.
“I have a whole heap of health conditions. I am a man who trouble with kidney issues, I had a small heart attack 12 years ago, and I have [high blood] pressure. Mi haffi extra cautious. I got one dose of the vaccine and I am supposed to get the second one on October 21. I am just praying for that time to come. I have four sons, but is just me and my wife live, and she got the first dose the same time I did,” said McLeish.
He told the Sunday Observer that he is worried about visiting the hospital for regular care after hearing of cases in which uninfected people leave hospitals infected with the novel coronavirus.
“People who are not infected go hospital and come out with the virus. But a long time I have been going and I never come out with it. Maybe me a one of the lucky ones. I try to observe the protocols and wear my mask and thing. I realise how serious this thing is. I am trying to keep as far as possible from people and the crowd and all that, because you don't know who in a crowd has it,” he said.
“I go to the hospital every month and sometimes all two times a month, depending on weh dem a treat mi fah. Recently, my blood count low and every Wednesday for about six weeks straight I had to be at the hospital. The hospital is compulsory for me.”