Sat | Dec 5, 2020

‘Stretched to the limit’ - West bracing for upsurge in virus cases amid resource constraints

Published:Wednesday | October 21, 2020 | 12:13 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Errol Greene.
Errol Greene.


With Jamaica expected to face a fresh wave of COVID-19 cases in the upcoming weeks, the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA) says it is doing all it can to brace itself albeit with limited numbers of personnel and bed spaces for coronavirus patients.

WRHA Regional Director Errol Greene told The Gleaner yesterday that healthcare facilities in the region – which covers Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland – were under strain.

“All our hospitals in the region are under great pressure at the moment, but we will just try our best to be as prepared as best as we can, given the circumstances. We only have so much amount of space, equipment and personnel, and our personnel are stretched to the limit,” stated Greene.

“I think mitigation would be our first priority – to encourage people to wear their masks, practise social distancing and so on, and to educate people as to what to do to prevent themselves from getting the disease. We need to step up our public-education programme even as we step up the clinical programme as well,” added Greene.

The WRHA boss was reacting a projection by epidemiologist Dr Peter Figueroa for an anticipated spike in the spread of COVID-19, which currently has caused 8,374 infections and at least 174 deaths across the island up to Monday. Some 24 other deaths are under investigation while another 14 were said to be coincidental.

“Even if it had peaked, we would expect there to continue to be significant cases, and therefore, we do expect to see further deaths,” Figueroa said in a recent interview on Radio Jamaica. “Hopefully, it will ease for a time, but it does not mean that COVID has gone away, and we can expect in the coming weeks another wave [of infections].”

Greene also noted that while construction of a field hospital in Falmouth for COVID-19 patients is ongoing, recent unfavourable weather conditions may impact the speed of the work.

“I was there at the worksite last week Thursday, and it is progressing according to schedule, but we have inclement weather, and because of that, the speed at which the contractor would want to work is delayed a little bit, not in terms of the schedule, but in terms of the pace of the work,” said Greene.

In the latest update on Monday, St James had recorded 766 COVID-19 cases, the highest number in the region covered by the WRHA, and the third-highest nationally behind Kingston and St Andrew’s 2,979 and St Catherine’s 1,904. Westmoreland has the second-highest number in the WRHA region with 191 cases, followed by Trelawny’s 122 and Hanover’s 110.