WRHA adjusting doctors’ shifts to handle COVID surge
WESTERN BUREAU: As the island grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases, readjustments are being done for shift assignments and monitoring of oxygen usage at medical facilities in under the umbrella of the the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA...
As the island grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases, readjustments are being done for shift assignments and monitoring of oxygen usage at medical facilities in under the umbrella of the the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA) to handle the current wave.
Dr Delroy Fray, clinical coordinator of the WRHA, told The Gleaner yesterday that while there is currently adequate staffing to deal with COVID-19 cases, some doctors may have to work double shifts to adequately address the current patient load.
“We have to mobilise the field hospital at Falmouth [which has a 36-bed capacity], and we are putting things in place now to take the overflow of patients,” said Fray.
“At CRH (Cornwall Regional Hospital), we have enough staffing, but they might have to double up the shifts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis,” explained Fray. “But we cannot tire out the doctors, so we have to monitor how we deal with that issue.”
Dr Mindi Fitz-Henley, head of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA), believes that the reality of having doctors doing double shifts to cover COVID-19 wards could have been avoided and is not as confident as Fray that enough doctors are employed in the public health system.
On the weekend, the health ministry urged doctors currently on vacation to return to work to handle the surge in cases.
“Our doctors out west are very upset because these are some of the doctors who are taking leave for the first time, and some have not even left for their leave as yet and are being told that they might not be able to get it. You cannot have the same doctors working for a year and a half straight without getting leave, and we have unemployed doctors that need to be taken back into the system,” said Fitz-Henley.
“I have been consistently flooded with calls from our members out west who are having a hard time dealing with this. We predicted this was going to happen because it was clear to everyone that the COVID-19 numbers were low when the preventive measures were in place,” said Fitz-Henley. “It is unfortunate that the doctors again have to bear the consequences for the irresponsibility of others. We will continue to show up and help to help save lives, but you cannot leave it all to the doctors.”
Concerning oxygen availability, Fray said that CRH, which is the largest of the hospitals in the western region – which comprises Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland – has three banks of oxygen supply to serve the most critical patients, and that the supply will be kept under strict maintenance.
“Critical COVID patients use 19 litres of oxygen a minute, and that drains one of the big cylinders within an hour or two. But the good thing is that we have three banks that we can refill from, so I have said to make sure those banks are filled so we can draw from them,” said Fray.
Earlier this year, CRH was among hospitals grappling with a shortage of medical oxygen due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Currently, almost all of Jamaica’s major hospitals are over their maximum capacity for COVID-19 admissions, with the CRH at 110 per cent and the Westmoreland-based Savanna-la-Mar Public Hospital at 167 per cent.
According to Fray, CRH had 45 COVID-19 admissions over the weekend, which is more than double the number admitted last month. He is blaming vaccine hesitancy for the increase in patient load.