Sat | Feb 27, 2021

BEDS ON BRINK - COVID crisis escalates as moderate, critical cases near 100

Published:Monday | February 22, 2021 | 12:06 AM
Wentworth Charles (left), chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority, and Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton tour the recently constructed COVID-19 field hospital located at St Joseph's Hospital in Kingston on February 11.
Wentworth Charles (left), chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority, and Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton tour the recently constructed COVID-19 field hospital located at St Joseph's Hospital in Kingston on February 11.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton goes to Cabinet this morning with a full-blown crisis on his hands as key hospitals in the coronavirus fight have either exceeded their COVID-19 bed space or are on the brink of turning away the sick. The St...

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton goes to Cabinet this morning with a full-blown crisis on his hands as key hospitals in the coronavirus fight have either exceeded their COVID-19 bed space or are on the brink of turning away the sick.

The St James-based Cornwall Regional Hospital, the ailing Type A facility serving western Jamaica, is at 100 per cent, and the Noel Holmes Hospital in Hanover is at 95 per cent, revealed Errol Greene, head of the Western Regional Health Authority. Cornwall Regional has 339 beds overall, with 41 allotted for COVID-19 cases.

“The numbers are just coming,” he lamented on Sunday night, insisting that doctors will not be turning away anyone.

“If people are showing up, what are we going to do? We have to accommodate them. They have to stay on stretchers and wheelchairs until we can find beds for them,” Greene said, adding that the hospital has been forced to “relax” its infection-control requirements measures to improve capacity.

The Spanish Town Hospital was at 85 per cent, while the National Chest and the Kingston Public hospitals were at “high numbers”, confirmed Wentworth Charles, chairman of the South Eastern Regional Health Authority, under whose oversight the facilities fall.

“We are making every effort to cope,” he told The Gleaner on Sunday night, indicating that a 70-bed, US$753,000 field hospital, donated by the US government, is being transferred from National Chest Hospital to the Spanish Town Hospital to serve the St Catherine region, whose COVID-19 crisis has set off alarm bells.

There were unconfirmed reports Sunday night that the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew was also out of bed space.

Jamaica’s coronavirus cases have massively trended upwards this month, with a 24-hour positivity rate over 30 per cent in one instance, prompting the authorities to urge Jamaicans to follow guidelines, tighten the national curfew, and reduce the number allowed for public gatherings.

On February 1, Jamaica had 15,973 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 92 hospitalised and 353 deaths.

The country, up to Saturday, had 21,382 cases, 245 persons in hospital, and 396 deaths. There are 97 critical and moderate cases.

The parishes with the most cases are Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, St James, Clarendon, Manchester, and St Ann – which together number 16,596.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com