Staff outside of PMH on Tuesday.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AFTER several doctors and nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital walked off the job due to COVID-19 safety concerns, the Public Hospitals Authority yesterday admitted the facility has remained challenged due to the influx of suspected COVID-19 patients presenting at its A&E Department.
In view of this, PHA said it is urging the Bahamian public to follow all the necessary COVID-19 prevention protocols before entering the hospital to avoid maximising the potential risk of COVID-19 exposure.
This includes calling the COVID-19 hotline if you or someone you know have been exposed or are suspected to have COVID-19 symptoms.
However, in cases of a medical emergency, you are advised to call 919 and notify the emergency medical dispatcher of COVID-19 suspicions.
In addition PHA advised, “If you are coming to the Emergency Department by private vehicle, please call the Emergency Department at 326-7014 before you arrive to allow the staff to prepare.”
This comes after dozens of doctors, nurses and staff at PMH’s A&E Department walked off the job on Tuesday, calling for more safety measures to be implemented to better protect workers against COVID-19 exposure.
Other workers had called in sick, according to union officials.
In a statement released yesterday, PHA confirmed the moves but did not say how many workers had called in sick or walked off the job on Tuesday.
However, saying the situation at PMH had reached “a boiling point”, head of the Bahamas Doctors Union Dr Melisandre Bassett told reporters on Tuesday some workers have been left compromised due to overcrowding at the A&E Department.
“We have teams out, we have doctors who are out,” she said. “I don’t have a specific number because it’s changing every day. The situation is at a boiling point, a tipping point, it has erupted actually. More needs to be done to correct it.
“…We have had a whole team of three or four persons out because of one patient exposure.”
Other concerns highlighted by the union president included the need for more personal protective equipment and isolation rooms for suspected COVID-19 patients.
“As it stands, all of our isolation rooms are occupied and as you know, with the COVID-19 case, they should be in negative pressure rooms even under investigation until that can be ruled out,” she said.
She continued: “Now with the hurricane, we would’ve lost four standalone rooms in the legacy unit. They have yet to be opened. We need those opened up and we need additional rooms and additional spaces to account for the number of patients that we are seeing on a daily basis.”
Responding to union’s concerns, PHA said while the hospital has continued to adhere to all protocols developed by A&E’s clinical management teams in managing COVID-19 patients, the facility has remained challenged due to overcrowding by suspected infected patients.
“The hospital remains severely challenged however due to the increasing number of suspected cases that present to A&E, which was not built for the type of care required for these patients,” officials continued in a statement.
“To avoid the overwhelming in an already overflowing system, we are requiring the public to only utilise the emergency department for life-threatening conditions.
“…The Princess Margaret Hospital remains committed to ensuring the safety of our staff and patients during this COVID-19 crisis. Flexibility will be required to meet the evolving public health challenges presented by the pandemic in our health institutions and communities. The public is reminded to follow the Ministry of Health’s guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Repeated attempts to reach Health Minister Renward Wells on the issue were unsuccessful up to press time.