PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the relaxation of lockdown restrictions for southern islands yesterday while disclosing efforts to add an additional 80 beds to the frontline fight against COVID-19.
His national address came as the country recorded 20 additional cases of the virus for a total of 898 and one additional death, pushing the count to 15. Health officials did not provide details about the latest death. The latest cases include 15 on Grand Bahama and five on New Providence.
Dr Minnis said moving forward, COVID-19 patients will be treated at the South Beach Clinic, Princess Margaret Hospital and Doctors Hospital Health System in west New Providence. Those facilities will deal with mild to moderate presentations of the disease and moderate to severe presentations respectively.
The existence of boarders at PMH has challenged bed resources, Dr Minnis said.
“The regrettable practice of leaving of elderly family members in the emergency department at PMH after they no longer require hospitalisation, has given rise to recurrent long-term boarders,” he said. “Many of these patients have comorbidities that make them particularly vulnerable to viral infections. They should not be in proximity to highly trafficked areas frequented by those with communicable diseases.”
Dr Minnis said to care for the boarders, $491 is spent for each person every day––or $6 million per year.
He said the Public Hospitals Authority has sought alternate accommodations for relocating boarders as Princess Margaret Hospital nears capacity.
“An assessment team comprised of representatives from nursing, care management and hospital administration is examining sites to determine their suitability as a care centre for PMH’s 33 boarders,” he said. “The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Services will make the final necessary assessments and recommendations on accommodations to enable us to both further protect this vulnerable group while making critical bed space available at PMH.”
He said the east building of the SuperClubs Breezes resort will be used as a National Response Facility to meet the needs of non-COVID-19 ‘low medical care’ patients during the pandemic. The facility will accommodate employees attending to patients on one floor and clinical and management operations on the other floors.
Breezes has asked the government to cover only utility costs, Dr Minnis said.
“The relocation from the Princess Margaret Hospital of boarders and the establishment of the National Response Facility off-site, will make available more beds so that COVID-19 patients can be more easily accommodated at PMH,” he added. “Doctors Hospital West is also increasing its bed capacity to help address the need.”
Meanwhile, Dr Minnis said normal commercial activity will resume on Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay, Long Island, Rum Cay and Ragged Island effective 5am today because health officials have not recorded any suspected COVID-19 activity on those islands for at least two weeks.
He said a travel-related swab from San Salvador is pending test results even though that island has no confirmed case of the virus.
Travel will be permitted between islands that have been reopened; travellers will not require a COVID-19 test.
Dr Minnis also said food store access will be expanded on islands currently under lockdown.
Food stores will be open until 7pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and until 6pm for essential workers on Saturday.
Dr Minnis addressed Grand Bahama residents directly after the lockdown there was extended recently until at least August 19.
He said health officials have said “the COVID-19 outbreak there is still not under control. In fact, it is very grave.
“I beg you in Grand Bahama, please, give the process more time. We have beaten this before, and can do so again, together.”