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Is the hospital Covid-19 ready?

An aerial view of the St. George’s General Hospital

With Grenada preparing to put systems in place to tackle the deadly coronavirus, nurses at the island’s major hospital have painted a dismal picture of the poor medical conditions existing at the facility.

A senior nurse told THE NEW TODAY that the staffers at the Obstetrics ward are forced to operate without hand sanitizers for about two years now and without running hot water in the pipes for the last 2 to 3 years.

According to the nurse who did not want to be identified, the hospital is lacking in basic things like paper towels and the same also applies to some of the District clinics.

She spoke of some nurses being forced to wipe their hands with paper or bring their own tissue papers from home to wipe their hands after dealing with patients.

The nurse expressed concerns if the authorities move to bring in coronavirus-infected persons within the Quarantine Area at the hospital since that area is located around the Private Ward and right next to the Pediatric Ward which houses sick children and babies.

“How can you put a quarantine access or a quarantine point in the hospital where you have people whose immune system is already low?

According to the nurse, it is an unfortunate situation at the hospital in light of the fact that the Quarantine area at the facility is in close proximity to the young ones who can be categorised as having “low resistance, non-resistance to certain bugs, certain infections or so”.

In addition, she said that the Quarantine area is one floor away from Obstetrics where again there are women recovering from surgeries and women affected by certain diseases like HIV and HTLV.

The nurse warned against bringing coronavirus patients into the Quarantine area at the hospital as that can affect new born babies with very slow immune system.

She feared that such a situation can prove to be detrimental to premature babies in the Special Care Department because their Immune System is already compromised.

Prime Minister Mitchell has announced a $2 million budget with a promise to provide more funds to fight the coronavirus on the island.

Another nurse who was approached by THE NEW TODAY expressed concerns about the lack of Proper Protective Equipment (PPE) for Health Care workers who are expected to be put on the frontline in any coronavirus outbreak on the island.

She said that the workers in Casualty are still using only surgical masks and that there is no place to treat patients who may be mentally challenged and brought to the hospital.

The nurses pointed to deficiencies in the area at the hospital that can be regarded as the Isolation Room and Quarantine section for patients as it “is not properly sealed”.

“The door is a handle door and not push or sensor open and the sink is one that has to be opened with the hand,” she said.

The nurse went on: “As a matter of fact the Pediatric Ward is very close to the Isolation Center and not blocked off. Patients going to out-patient have to use the wash room in the same area where the Covid-19 patients will be passed to go to the Isolation Center and could come into contact with a patient on their way to the Center.

“If something breaks down in the Isolation Center are there any PPE for the Maintenance men to wear to go into the Isolation Center to fix it? Are there equipment to care for a patient who may stool on themselves? Are there sufficient ventilators and Respirators?

“When are we getting more testing kits? Are the lab staff trained to prepare the kits to send away for testing and are they equipped?

According to the nurse, the Ambulance Drivers are now seen for the first time wearing surgical masks but there are no adequate suits at the hospital for Orderlies.

The senior nurse also raised concerns about the shortage of nurses on the staff at the St. George’s General hospital at the moment.

“Are we seeking to employ additional Nurses or bring in Nurses? Remember Nurses left after the disrespect of being called thieves and the ones remaining are still recovering for that shame. Health Care workers are fearful – we only talking but no one seeking to get the supplies and equipment.

“Every Nurse and Doctor cannot work in Covid-19 – they are also needed as we still have the normal medical conditions to deal with.

The nurse called on the Mitchell-led ruling New National Party (NNP) government to reach out to China to provide the island with “a highly trained technical expert on Covid-19 or a Scientist (who) fought Covid-19 in China to help us please”.

“We need technical experts. Who (are) checking on that? We ask for intervention Father. The persons in high places (are) not listening to Healthcare Workers. Further, now that school is closed Health Care Workers have no place to leave their children. Some are worried how are (they) going to attend (to patients) with no one taking care of their small children. It is a challenge.

China has announced that it was donating a package of medical supplies to Grenada to help with the island’s COVID-19 preparedness.

According to resident Chinese Ambassador, Dr. Zhao Yongchen, the supplies include N95 masks, protective suits, forehead thermometers, protective medical glasses, disposable medical gloves and disposable medical boot covers and will be shipped to the island by air transport.

In making the announcement, Ambassador Zhao referred to the long-term friendship and enduring mutual support between China and Grenada.

He said that China remembers “the solidarity and valuable support from the Grenadian government and people during China’s fight against the epidemic” and that apart from the medical supplies, the world’s second major superpower “is willing to strengthen the bilateral cooperation in health sector and share experience to assist Grenada in COVID-19 preparedness within its capacity”.

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The release issued said: “The Chinese side will continue to do everything possible to protect the health and wellness of the Grenadian students in China, as well as that of the Grenadian people.

“Currently, China has achieved significant progress in the fight against the epidemic, and the spread of the epidemic is generally under control. Nonetheless, disease respects no borders and the outbreak is occurring in various places with multiple sources, including a few cases in the Caribbean.

“China has been committed to international cooperation against the outbreak in a spirit of openness and transparency, and has worked to protect the health and wellness of the Chinese people as well as the people of the rest of the world.

“While solidifying the progress at home, China is ready to provide necessary help in light of the needs of other countries. Mankind belongs to a community with a shared future, and fighting the epidemic is the shared responsibility of all nations. All countries must stay together and fight to the end.

Ambassador Zhao is confident that” the friendship between the Chinese and Grenadian people will be deepened, and practical cooperation in various areas strengthened through the joint fight against the epidemic”.

The ambassador appeared to give a vote of confidence in the manner in which Prime Minister Mitchell was handling the situation.

“He wished for the final victory over the epidemic by the people of the tri-island under the leadership of the Prime Minister, Dr. the Right Honorable Keith Mitchell”.

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