Story and photos by Carlena Knight
As the fight against the coronavirus continues, the medical fraternity in Antigua and Barbuda has received a major boost in providing care as the newly refurbished NTTC building was handed over for the purpose of a medical facility.
The Nugent Avenue compound, which once housed an educational institution for secondary school students, will aid as a third facility, alongside the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre and the Infectious Diseases Control Centre, to house and treat Covid and other sick patients if it becomes necessary.
It currently has 50 beds, with 20 more to be added in the next two weeks, Minister of Works Lennox Weston said.
Speaking at a brief handover ceremony on Thursday was the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre’s Medical Director, Dr Albert Duncan, who shared his pleasure at having a new venue to “join in the fight” against the virus.
Health officials have been sharing concerns recently about the limited space at the lone public hospital as Covid cases continue to skyrocket.
“I am not sure if today should be a sad day or a happy day but what I am sure about is I am pleased to have this centre join in the fight with us as we fight against Covid, because it means the need to have more capability and capacity means that more people are getting sick and we must work a little harder and we are already stressed maximally.
“Happy, because it shows the commitment of the government of Antigua and Barbuda and the Ministry of Health to support us in the healthcare system as we work tirelessly in the only medical facility on the island,” Dr Duncan said.
“We can start to move some patients around that could come to a place that is not as intensive as the hospital environment and allow them to get better with a little bit less staff as required to take care of these patients.”
Echoing his sentiments was Health Minister Molwyn Joseph who not only commended the Ministry of Works for its efforts in getting the facility up to par but also Prime Minister Gaston Browne who is said to have had the idea to retrofit the compound.
The facility which now has a new purpose will also feature a new name, the Sir Cuthwin Lake Medical Centre. The name was chosen by Joseph to honour a local pioneer of medicine who contributed over 40 years of medical service.
In 2014, Dr Lake received the highest honour in the nation for outstanding contributions to national development in the field of medicine.
Joseph revealed that the new medical facility – which will feature nurses’ quarters, theatres and even an ICU – is expected to become operational in the coming days.
“It’s up to the people at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre to organise themselves and shift patients here but there are about 13 or 14 rooms ready for occupancy so that could happen at any time,” Joseph added.