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Health officials defend decision to treat COVID-19 positive patients with other patients

Director of Medical Services Dr. Thyiesia Donald - not enough manpower to manage a second isolation facility for COVID-19 patients

Although calls have been consistent in many quarters for the Ministry of Health to discontinue the housing of COVID-19 patients with non-COVID-19 patients at the St. George’s General Hospital, Acting Medical Director within the Ministry of Health Thyiesia Donald says, the ongoing arrangement will continue as the “dynamics of the staffing situation” does not provide enough “manpower,” to do otherwise at this time.

Dr. Donald, who was at the time responding to questions posed on the contentious issue during a press conference in St. George’s on Monday, acknowledged that “there has been quite a lot of discussion regarding the housing of our COVID-19 positive patients.”

However, she pointed out that “without the extra manpower to man two (2) facilities on the ground at this moment, we are gonna continue with the present arrangement, and continue with the discussions regarding other options.”

“We are still in discussions regarding other options…we have had a lot of discussions surrounding the possibility of (using the) Princess Alice Hospital (in Mirabeau, St. Andrew), we thought of a field hospital, (which is a temporary hospital or mobile medical unit that takes care of casualties on-site before they can be safely transported to a permanent facility), and we thought of using our hospital.

“So, we created our isolation unit, which started with nine (9) beds (and) we saw the need to expand. So, we did some adjustments within our hospital system and converted our ground floor to expand our isolation unit (and) right now, we have the capacity for 93 beds within our (St. George’s) General Hospital and we have never really gotten past or even close to our capacity.”

Since the call by Dr. Donald for persons to “seek medical care if they are feeling unwell,” during last week Tuesday’s post-cabinet media brief, positive COVID-19 patients within the hospital system increased from 68 to 81 as of Monday.

Dr. Donald who also urged persons to get vaccinated for their protection, noted that most of the Covid-19 related deaths at the hospital occur among the unvaccinated, who die “within 24 to 48 hours of seeking care,” because “by the time they get to the hospital, they are at the advance stage of the disease.”

On the other hand, she said that when a COVID-19 patient is sufficiently stable, the protocols provide for their discharge from the hospital, with advice to continue treatment at home and to self-isolate for a further seven (7) days.

Covid-19 patients are also advised to ensure adherence to these guidelines to help prevent the further spread of the virus.

On Monday, the Ministry of Health received overseas assistance to help in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the areas of intensive care, phlebotomy, and internal medicine.

According to Dr, Donald, a team from Mexico comprising “three (3) intensivists (and) two (2) nurse practitioners who also work in intensive care,” will now be working along with the local ICU (Intensive Care Unit) team, while another team from the United States includes a “physician and a phlebotomist,” under a programme being coordinated by United States-based Grenadian physician, Dr. Phillip Bonaparte.

Director of Hospital Services Dr. Carol McIntosh welcomed the additional manpower from Mexico and the US but pointed out that indications from conversations with “colleagues with whom I worked with for many years in New York are that the possibility of bringing in people is limited because they too need staff (and) we have to be conscious of that.”

Dr. McIntosh defended the government’s decision to continue housing COVID-19 positive patients, and non-COVID-19 patients at the St. George’s General Hospital, especially in light of the understaffed situation.

She said that providing care to COVID-19 patients “does not diminish the service to other non-Covid patients” at the General Hospital.

“Not at all, not at all – they (COVID-19 patients) are not on the same ward (as non-COVID-19 patients),” she said.

“Of course you have to have the isolation but they are also being taken care of by the physicians, and the specialists (who are) making sure that they are managed well,” she added.

The female hospital services director stated that while “it is hard on us (the medical staff) because we are one (1) main hospital, we are understaffed, and the staff is tired, we can do it, and we are continuing to do it…”

“So, it is also not necessarily the fact that people are coming in (to assist us) but also the fact that we have telemedicine, (which is the remote diagnosis, and treatment of patients utilising telecommunications technology), and in addition to that, the services that are there at the hospital will continue. So, they continue to provide services to those who don’t have COVID.”

She pointed out that “there are patients that are being admitted with comorbidities, and are being treated for the comorbidities, who happen to also have COVID-19. So, yes we are providing services across the board.”

Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two (2) or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient.

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