WRHA chairman says west ready for COVID fourth wave, but…
Cornwall Regional Hospital, seen here, has been undergoing majorrehabilitation since 2016. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Public hospitals in the western end of the country will be ready, if or when, a fourth wave of the novel coronavirus hits, says chairman of the Western Regional Health Authority, Eric Clarke.

“We want to make sure we are prepared for the next surge,” Clarke told the Jamaica Observer. “I don't predict one, but… every four months we tend to get a surge. In the event that we get that surge, the region can easily identity those isolation spaces beforehand. It's a matter of converting a ward as needed.”

Clarke said his confidence is based on the adequacy of facilities at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, the support Noel Holmes Hospital will be able to get from a field hospital built nearby, and his belief that the field hospital being built on the grounds of the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital will soon be available for use despite the volume of work left to be done.

“Come the next [surge], the staff shouldn't be under pressure immediately. Depending on how bad that wave is, or [how] good; we will see,” Clarke said.

Speaking specifically to Savanna-la-Mar, Clarke explained that the 14-bed isolation unit had been completed just in time and, with the number of patients requiring isolation trending down, some form of normalcy is returning to the hospital.

He said the Savanna-la-Mar hospital has been given priority in the allocation of 40 oxygen concentrators ordered for the western region. This is because the under-construction 36-bed field hospital will not use piped oxygen, making it unable to handle high-flow ventilators. As a result it will only accommodate patients who need low-flow oxygen and each bed will have an oxygen concentrator beside it.

“What it will do is alleviate us needing cylinders or anything there,” Clarke said. “We've also ordered beds in anticipation. So all of those things we're working on to put in place there. Sav-la-Mar is doing well.”

However, there are still a number of tasks to be done to get the field hospital up and running. These include the installation of bathrooms, which will mean additional cost.

“There are some challenges,” Clarke conceded. “Obviously we want to complete the field hospital; the scope of it has changed. There is a tent that is envisioned and we are working on, but the tent doesn't come with bathrooms, the donning, and the dopping area, which we have to do and which comes at a significant extra cost.”

He also explained that after the foundation is laid, the electrical work has to be done and only then can the tent be installed.

“But we need to work on the second part of the project to get bathroom facilities,” he stressed. “That will give it some permanency; because otherwise, we won't be able to use it for patients.”

— Rosalee Wood

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