Sat | Mar 28, 2020

KPH to lock down A&E if virus ‘surge’ emerges

Published:Tuesday | February 4, 2020 | 12:29 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
Lukasz Kowalczyk (right), managing director of Medimpex Jamaica, greets Dr Natalie Whylie,  senior medical officer of the Kingston Public Hospital after Medimpex presented a digital screen to the Accident and Emergency unit on Monday.
Lukasz Kowalczyk (right), managing director of Medimpex Jamaica, greets Dr Natalie Whylie, senior medical officer of the Kingston Public Hospital after Medimpex presented a digital screen to the Accident and Emergency unit on Monday.

Staff at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) would have to shift their focus to exclusively deal with emergency cases in the event of a novel coronavirus “surge” at its doors, but senior medical officials at the country’s busiest trauma centre are confident they have access to sufficient resources to treat with the virus should it hit local shores.

Senior medical officer (SMO) at the Type A hospital, Dr Natalie Whylie, said that workers started sensitisation sessions two weeks ago to prepare them for any eventualities.

“We have an isolation area in our emergency room and we have some isolation rooms in the medical block. We have reviewed our plan, which includes basic infection-control procedures, so reviewing things like hand hygiene, access to hand sanitisers, hand-washing, looking at our stock in terms of our N95 masks, gowns, regular surgical masks, gloves, we have done that,” she told The Gleaner yesterday.

Front-line workers have been fully briefed on the protocol for screening individuals who visit the hospital, the SMO said. Patients will, among other things, be asked to disclose their travel history.

“If it is that we have a surge, and for us, we have defined surge as 10 suspected cases, then the way we function here at KPH will change, so we will shift our focus to just dealing with emergencies and that is part of our plan as well,” Whylie explained.

“There are some patients who come through our emergency room who really should be seen in the health centres, so those we triage out,” she noted.

The hospital sees about 300 patients daily.

SURVEILLANCE REGIME

Head of the Accident and Emergency unit, Dr Hugh Wong, said that those who meet the case definition for coronavirus infection will be admitted to an isolation ward.

“We are alert and the surveillance continues, because we have always been surveilling for respiratory-type illnesses daily,” said Wong.

“Currently, Jamaica does not have the resources to test, so what they are doing right now is that if you come in and you have a respiratory illness that they are concerned about, they test for influenza,” the emergency-room doctor added.

Wong said that further analysis would be done on patients who tested negative for influenza and whose signs and symptoms fit the case definition for the novel coronavirus.

The country is expected to have the capacity to conduct its own coronavirus tests in a week.

Both medical practitioners say they are not aware of anyone showing up at the hospital and have been suspected of having the coronavirus.

Already, there have been 361 deaths and more than 17,000 confirmed cases worldwide, but the World Health Organization said the incidence will keep rising because tests are pending on thousands of suspected cases.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com