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‘It’s tough!’ - Despite crippling challenges, UHWI finding ways to cope

Published:Thursday | May 14, 2020 | 12:10 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

THE UNIVERSITY Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) has been finding ways to cope amid the COVID-19 crisis.

In an interview on Tuesday, Chief Executive Officer Kevin Allen told The Gleaner that they have been using added technology to support their staff.

“In one of the intensive care units (ICU), we have cameras set up and the patients are monitored via this method. In ward seven, which is the COVID ward, we have also employed a similar strategy. Otherwise, it would be a Herculean task with the shortage of nurses that we have,” he said.

Nurses assigned to the COVID ward must don the appropriate gear, doff properly, and take showers before exiting.

With 780 nurses on board, staffing remains critically low as the hospital loses an average of 10 nurses per month.

The same is true for ICU nurses. Ideally, there should be 160 ICU nurses and there are currently 48.

“It’s tough! We face the risk of burnout. Thank God, we have an excellent nursing manager corps and the staff is dedicated. What we try to do is provide affordable accommodation on campus to cut down on the transportation time,” he shared.


With the onset of the virus locally, a decision was taken by the management to reduce all services by 50 per cent.

Clinic dates are being rescheduled, and some elective surgeries have been postponed.

“We have also seen a steady decline in the number of patients turning up at the emergency area for treatment. It has also hurt our revenue intake, but nonetheless, we continue to press on and treat all emergency cases,” the CEO explained.

Allen said there has been a small gain from reduced patient care in the Accident and Emergency Department as the staff is able to “cope a little bit better”.

Acquiring personal protective equipment has also become a challenge for the hospital. Some of its suppliers have not been able to deliver, and in some cases, the prices have increased exponentially.

“We usually buy a simple box of surgical mask for $900 and we have seen where that has moved to $4,000 and $6,000,” he revealed.

However, the price increase will not affect the supplies they currently have on order, but those in the upcoming order cycle.

The UHWI has been receiving support in the form of medical supplies from the National Health Fund and the health ministry to offset its shortfall.