Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
ST ANN'S BAY, St Ann:AN INCREASE in the patient load at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital because of dengue and other seasonal illnesses has forced the Ministry of Health to extend service hours at the St Ann's Bay and Ocho Rios health centres.
In a release Thursday evening, the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) said both centres would remain open until 8 p.m., Monday to Friday, an extension of four hours beyond the usual 4 p.m. closing time.
Additionally, the St Ann's Bay Health Centre will also open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., while the Ocho Rios centre will open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
NERHA said the extended hours were because "the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital has seen an increase in patient numbers mainly due to seasonal illnesses affecting individuals islandwide".
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
An increase in the number of dengue cases recently has raised concerns across the island. Last week, the Ministry of Health said there were over 1,200 reported cases of the illness. Earlier this week, the ministry activated an emergency operations centre (EOC) at its Kingston offices to respond to and monitor the effects of the outbreak.
The ministry said then that it had intensified its dengue-control response after weekly monitoring by its National Surveillance Unit and the Virology Reference Lab at the University of the West Indies indicated a rapid increase in the clinically suspected cases of dengue and laboratory-confirmed cases, respectively.
On Thursday, NERHA advised the public to expect increased waiting times for accessing some services at hospitals because of the increased patient load, and also reduced visitation times and number of visitors allowed on affected wards.
"We also urge persons with non-urgent conditions to visit their nearest health centre as a large number of health issues can be effectively managed in these facilities," the release stated.