By Theresa Goodwin
Residents with non-Covid related emergencies face the risk of dying from conditions that could otherwise be treated due to increasing coronavirus cases and the impact on the country’s healthcare system.
Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Teri-Ann Joseph painted that stark reality Monday night during a state media interview where she indicated that the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre is nearing capacity and resources are being depleted.
She also stated boldly that more new cases are likely to be recorded in the coming weeks due to a number of social events reportedly held in recent days. One is said to have taken place in an area close to Jolly Harbour, while flyers were circulated on social media advertising two ‘last lap’ events last Thursday before new restrictions came into effect on Friday.
“The total number of beds at the hospital is 140; the additional are reserved for oncology and for dignitaries. Of the 140 that are available, 130 are occupied in all,” Dr Joseph said.
One floor of the hospital is reserved for cancer patients, with a handful of beds also set aside for dignitaries in line with standard international practice, she explained later to Observer.
“The hospital is 92.86 percent occupied; we really don’t have space. The more people who have Covid who need to be hospitalised are going to occupy beds; that means less beds are going to be available for other people with other serious illnesses who are going to need help,” Joseph said.
Going into more details and with support of data, she stated that of the 323 active cases that have been recorded so far, 22 persons are hospitalised and the majority of them are unvaccinated.
The Ministry of Health’s latest dashboard – released Tuesday – revealed the number of hospitalised cases to have risen to 23.
Dr Joseph told Observer that around 80 percent of the 64 new cases announced this week so far are unvaccinated people. Fourteen percent are fully vaccinated but showing no symptoms. Half of the remaining six percent have received one dose of a jab, while the status for the other three percent is currently unknown.
The acting CMO said there are six isolation rooms in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) – four of which are presently occupied. A three-year-old child is in isolation at the Paediatric Unit, while 10 of the 18 beds in the hospital’s Covid-19 ward are also in use.
In addition to this, 13 of the 17 beds at the Infectious Disease Control Centre (IDC) at the old Holberton Hospital compound are occupied. According to Joseph, these individuals do not necessarily need to be at the facility, however, their living arrangements make it difficult for them to be isolated.
The recent increase in cases is also having a significant impact on hospital resources, Joseph said.
“We have been waiting for a shipment of PCR tests for a while and because of that we have had to send 206 PCR swabs to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for testing because we are running low on reagents,” Dr Joseph said.
She added that the number of infections will likely increase in the coming weeks due to parties and other activities that are still taking place.
“On the public holiday, we at the ministry were made aware that there were secret pool parties,” she said.
“We are not going to talk about it now; we are just going to wait to see when the numbers increase if we can trace it back to that event.
“And then we saw two advertisements for ‘last lap’ activities before curfew; these can be considered super-spreader events, and so when the numbers increase that’s three activities.
“All we need to ask is, which one did you go to – and then we can link it,” Joseph added.