By Gemma Handy
The first preview of the new $4 million Infectious Disease Control Centre was given to media yesterday during a tour with Health Minister Molwyn Joseph.
Prior to its revamp, the Margetson Ward at the former Holberton Hospital had laid empty since 2009.
It will now be used to care for all future Covid-19 patients in need of hospitalisation, Minister Joseph said.
There are currently six high-tech hospital beds ready for the very sickest patients, and 17 isolation rooms in total. All are equipped with oxygen and medical air, plus crucial negative air machines to prevent the highly contagious virus escaping the room.
The centre is stocked with three of the country’s 40 ventilators. An additional 15 are said to be en route to Antigua.
Each coronavirus patient will be cared for by two nurses who will work four-hour shifts. The nurses’ station is fitted with CCTV screens enabling medics to observe each of the 17 rooms simultaneously, plus the perimeters of the building.
Nurses will enter the centre via a designated door.
There is a bathroom immediately to one side where they will wash before starting work, and an adjacent area to don personal protective gear (PPE).
A separate area has been set aside for nurses to remove PPE at the end of each shift and dispose of it in a special trash bin.
The six single nurses’ bedrooms are complete with television and bathroom facilities. There is also a communal lounge and dining area on the ground floor. The upper floor has several more twin bedrooms, along with a conference area, two offices and another lounge.
A total of 18 medics can stay onsite, to avoid transferring the infection to their families at home. The centre has internet connectivity throughout.
A separate area downstairs has been designated as the only place in the facility where anyone not working or being cared for can meet with staff.
The long-awaited centre has suffered a string of delays and made a significant dent in public coffers.
Regional public health body PAHO had been working with the Antigua and Barbuda government back in 2015 to kit the abandoned building out as a defence against Ebola.
Work only ever reached as far as gutting the place before the risk posed by Ebola was deemed to have passed, Minister Joseph said.
Plans are now in place to transform Holberton’s former casualty area into a lab testing site.
“The lab services here will be for the general public. In the future, if you need a blood test, it will be here,” the minister said.
“After Covid is over, the centre will be used for other medical purposes too,” he added. “If this crisis is over in 12 months, we won’t just leave the centre, we will have to utilise it.”