University hospital under pressure from COVID patients
Patients wait for care in front of the Accident and Emergency Department of the University Hospital of the West Indies on Wednesday. (Photo: Jason Cross)

A number of patients in need of oxygen and medical attention at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in St Andrew Wednesday received care either in a driveway, a corridor, or under a tent in front of the Accident and Emergency Department due to a shortage of beds and space, resulting from an influx of patients with COVID-19 symptoms.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bissasor-McKenzie has reported that bed capacity at most major hospitals across the island had reached 90 per cent.

Chief executive officer of UHWI Kevin Allen told the Jamaica Observer that the operations at the institution were becoming difficult as the fourth wave of the virus shapes up to wreak havoc. He reported that the system is further strained as roughly 90 nurses are at home, sick.

For patients and staff, Allen said the situation is “stressful, frustrating and difficult”. He encouraged staff to “hold it because the worst is yet to come”.

“We are putting systems in place and we are working to see how best we can ensure we hold it. We are not in breakdown days yet, but it is rough,” he said.

“The last report I have seen, we have some 90 nurses out of the system and that is crippling our operations. We have roughly 880 nurses and about 10 per cent have come down with the virus,” Allen added.

“We were already operating short with these skill sets, so to lose so many will impact on the quality of care. All the areas that we operate are full. The field hospitals are full, isolation is full, emergency is full with patients. We had to revert to using tents.

Allen said that, on Tuesday night, the hospital had 26 patients who were being cared for on the outside.

“It is not just about the shortage, but it is also about the numbers of patients turning up with COVID-19-related symptoms that we have to deal with,” he said.

One man, who was visiting his 84-year-old father in the field hospital yesterday, was livid about him allegedly being tied to a bed and neglected since being admitted there on Saturday. He said the elderly man was taken to the hospital after collapsing in Papine, St Andrew. He claimed that his father has been given food on Tuesday night and received nothing more to eat or drink up to Wednesday afternoon.

“... A we affi carry something fi him eat. When him see wi him seh, 'Lord God, beg you some water, please.' A dem thing deh a gwaan. Dem naa treat dem right. Dem naa get no form of good treatment. Dem all tie him up because dem seh him a try go weh. But the situation weh in yah suh, you ago waa go weh.”

Medical Association of Jamaica President Dr Brian James, in a Nationwide News Network interview Wednesday, recommended that the Government tighten curfew measures to limit spread of the virus during the fourth wave. He also said that face-to-face schooling should be put off for at least a month.

“We have been suggesting that the restrictions may be a bit too liberal and we should consider going back at the very minimum to the 8:00 pm curfew,” he said.

In a statement Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness said people who develop flu-like symptoms should remain at home and monitor themselves while also observing infection prevention and control measures.

“If symptoms persist beyond three days, then persons should seek advice from a private doctor, health centre, or parish health department. All persons were encouraged to wash their hands frequently, wear a mask, get vaccinated, take the booster, avoid crowded spaces, stay hydrated, and eat healthy,” said the ministry.

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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