Wed | Jul 28, 2021

COVID-19 overwhelming the west - Health, security and business sectors in a tailspin

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2021 | 12:14 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor
Dr Delroy Fray.
Dr Delroy Fray.
Errol Green
Errol Green


As the wanton disregard for the COVID-19 health and safety protocols continues to manifest itself in more positive coronavirus cases across western Jamaica, the region’s health services are now in a scary tailspin as hospitals, including the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), are either completely out of bed space or are on the verge of running out.

On the weekend, Errol Greene, who heads the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), revealed that the CRH, the region’s only Type-A hospital, is now at 100 per cent of its capacity, and other facilities such as the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital (Westmoreland), the Falmouth Hospital (Trelawny), and the Noel Holmes Hospital (Hanover) are all closing in on 100 per cent capacity.

“We are now at 100 per cent of capacity at CRH, and the other hospitals in the region are all well over 90 per cent,” said Greene in explaining the dire state of the region’s capacity to handle new COVID-19 cases. “Despite, the situation, we are not turning back any patient from the CRH.”


During a forum staged by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) last week, Dr Delroy Fray, the clinical coordinator at the CRH, said that there were 58 COVID-19 patients at the hospital, which clearly requires more space than the 25-bed capacity of the COVID-19 ward.

According to Fray, the hospital’s administration meets daily to look at how they can come up with creative ways to create space at the Mt Salem-based hospital as they await the completion of the under-construction field hospital in Falmouth, Trelawny, which is expected to handle spill-over cases.

But even as health officials continue to struggle to handle the exploding COVID-19 situation, it would appear that more and more persons are disregarding the health and safety protocols as mask-wearing and social distancing protocols are being ignored in public spaces, and COVID fatigue is causing more persons to take on risky behaviours such as attending water parties, unauthorised sporting activities, and illegal parties.

“When I go to the Charles Gordon Market and see this large number of buyers and sellers without masks and no efforts at social distancing, all I could see is more COVID-19 cases and more deaths,” said businesswoman Yvonne Smith. “I believe the time has come to start arresting these offenders and charging them for attempted murder because it is clear they want to kill the rest of us.”

It would appear that the police, who are charged with policing the Disaster Risk Management Act, which is designed to force compliance to the COVID-19 protocols, are becoming increasingly frustrated, albeit not willing to go on record with their growing disgust.

“It has reached the stage where we need to create a legal framework around COVID-19 so we can take meaningful action against those who are operating in breach,” a senior police officer in the western region told The Gleaner. “We need a ticketing system where offenders are hauled before the courts and hit with hefty fines. People must start to feel it in their pockets in substantial amounts or face jail time. Leaving this problem on the police to fix is not workable.”

The strain on the region’s health services and the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases have caused a major spike as it relates to concerns in the business community, which has been in a tailspin since the advent of the virus last March.

“We are quite worried about the situation, and that is why we had the forum last week with stakeholders and also revamped our ‘Mask MoBay’ campaign,” said Janet Silvera, president of the MBCCI, whose organisation has been handing out masks to street vendors as part of the effort to contain the spread of the virus.

“All of us have to start taking responsibility. We need to focus heavily on our public education. The increase in COVID-19 cases is putting additional strain on what was already a frail health system,” Silvera said.