By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas have now risen to 1,119.
While revealing 30 new cases - 24 in New Providence, six in Grand Bahama and two additional deaths, Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan admitted Friday that even though the country is on its second national lockdown in response to rising COVID-19 numbers the disease continues to spread.
A further break down of cases she said showed 570 in the capital, 446 in Grand Bahama, Bimini 45, 31 in Abaco, Berry Islands 12, Cat Island eight, Exuma five and one case each on Inagua and Eleuthera.
In this week alone the CMO said 356 cases were reported, representing a 41 percent increase over last week.
Additionally, Dr McMillan said eight deaths - four in Nassau and four on Grand Bahama - were being investigated by health officials. However, she said details were not readily available on the deaths.
The Ministry of Health painted a vivid picture of the state of the COVID-19 crisis during its weekly press conference Friday.
Health Minister Renward Wells said the situation is also affecting the country’s pool of healthcare workers, which is not infinite nor vast.
He said many of them were exposed to the virus and are in quarantine, meanwhile those remaining are at a very high risk for burn out and teams are working short of members.
Of lockdowns, Dr McMillan admitted that officials may not have been seeing the results they had hoped for.
“When we look at Grand Bahama, we are in our eighth day of lock down and there continues to be reported to cases,” Dr McMillan said. “There is a backlog, mentioned, in our lab capacity output currently along with delayed reporting of samples of persons who would have had samples taken prior to the lockdown will now be reflected in our numbers.
“And, also with our enhanced contact tracing we are picking up asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic and symptomatic persons who would have not necessary presented to health facility. These are all reasons why we may not be seeing the decline we thought we would be seeing during the lock down period.”
She said the coming days will reveal whether there is reduced transmission of COVID-19 in communities or just a function of lab testing outputs.
Mr Wells, expressing empathy towards those who work in the government healthcare system, said the government is conscious of their fears of contracting the virus.
“A real concern is the growing exposure to COVID-19 amongst professionals and patients in healthcare facilities in The Bahamas,” The minister said. “While the trend is consistent with COVID-19 spread worldwide in healthcare facilities, our human resource pool is not infinite – not vast.
“Since many of these healthcare workers were exposed and are currently in quarantine, those remaining are at very high risk for burnout and teams are working short of members. I wish to assure all healthcare workers that the Government is conscious of the fears expressed in respect of COVID-19.”
Minister Wells was happy to inform the press of the successes of his Ministry in the fight against COVID-19.
“Let me highlight some of our successes thus far,” said Minister Wells, continuing. “The number of recoveries from COVID-19 remained steady at 91 for weeks. This number has finally escalated to over 138 and counting. PHA has improved bed capacity at the Princess Margaret Hospital through the transfer of boarders to accommodation in line with their needs.
“Breezes has been secured off site for quarantining and treating suspected COVID-19 cases. This approach minimizes the potential spread of the virus among non-COVID-19 patients and staff within the Princess Margaret Hospital. Resources, inclusive of security have also been enhanced at Breezes to treat patients under our care.”
He also pointed other ways in which his ministry is caring for healthcare staff.
“To date, there has been no furloughing, lay-offs, terminations or a reduction or deferring of benefits for any worker in the public sector,” Minister Wells said. “The government has seen to it that PPE have even been extended to staff at Doctors Hospital West and to all public agencies of government to ensure safe delivery of services and that will continue as guided by the increased stock ledger.
“I can also assure the public that the assessment, testing and investigation protocols for staff in the public health sector are being guided by the approved policy of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and in line with the national policy under the Ministry of Health.”
Recently the Eye Ward at the Princess Margaret was reported to have been contaminated with the virus. Asked about it, Hospital Administrator, Nurse Mary Walker updated the press on the incident.
“With respect to the Public Health Authority and Princess Margaret Hospital, specifically the Eye Ward,” she said. “There has been exposure on the Eye Ward and I can indicate that the Public Hospital Authority utilizes the employee health services which mirrors the surveillance service of the Ministry of Health.
“In that they will follow up all the patients and staff that have been exposed to the virus. Any staff that is impacted will be cared for in conjunction with the prevailing policies of the PHA for exposure management for employees.”
If you are certain that you were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, and you do not receive a call from Surveillance within 48 hours, please contact the unit yourself at:
· 502-7382 (9:00am – 5:00pm,
· 376-9350 (8:00am – 8:00pm or;
· 376-9387 (8:00pm – 8:00am.