By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
A TOP doctor at Princess Margaret Hospital described the strain COVID-19 has on the hospital in stark terms yesterday, insisting the institution has “passed the breaking point”.
She said that sections of the facility are “bursting at the seams” and that the hospital is already at the point of collapse.
Dr Raquel Davis-Hall, a consultant in the Accident & Emergency section of the hospital, said PMH is currently in the worst state it has been in since the start of the pandemic last year.
“Right now I’ve been having doctors call us over the last two, three days, they call us from Abaco, they calling from Andros, they calling from Eleuthera, they have patients, either symptomatic for COVID or testing positive or they need to be investigated for COVID. I have nowhere to put them so I have to delay their transfer,” she told reporters during a media tour of PMH yesterday.
“(A) physician I spoke to from Abaco yesterday, he had three patients and he been calling for two days. I felt so horrible, I said I have to make space for at least one of your patients so you won’t feel that burden, so that we can share in this responsibility and I took the patient but after that I could take no more. So the islands are calling and I have nowhere to put these patients.”
The government has thus far resisted implementing strict restrictions on people’s ability to assemble and move throughout New Providence during the third wave of COVID-19, emphasising that the arrival of vaccines points to a way out of the pandemic.
But even as residents show greater willingness to get the jabs, hospital officials are worried that their institutions cannot cope with the deluge of patients.
“People are dying,” Dr Davis-Hall said. “Young people are dying. We have people pull up at the Critical Care Block not breathing and we do all that we can to assist them and we are limited in our reach and in our scope. There are things that we don’t have in this institution to help our fellow man. We want to have negative pressure rooms in the emergency rooms (but) we don’t have that and so our efforts for these patients are limited.”
Dr Davis-Hall said the Accident & Emergency Department needs more nurses. She said tents donated recently by Samaritan’s Purse were a welcomed gift, but they are already filled to capacity under the surge of COVID-19 patients.
“Our secondary area in the clinic, we call the general practice clinic, that is bursting at the seams at this particular point in time,” she said. “I know we have two wards that are scheduled to come on stream, I need them to open and I need them to be staffed. I need them to decompress our load. The load is great and we are feeling the weight and it is crushing us at times.”
Staff of the Accident & Emergency section have been overworked since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Davis-Hall said. Some, she added, have worked continually with no relief and no breaks.
“We are tired and we would like for the Bahamian public to know we care about you, we love you as our fellow brothers and sisters but we want you to take care of yourselves, we want you to do the protocol that has been outlined by the Ministry of Health,” she said. “We also want you to get vaccinated. Please, brothers and sisters, you need to be vaccinated. This COVID virus is relentless. We see patients come in, let’s say 12am, they’re breathing, and you could say in the next two hours those same persons can be dead.”
Despite the hard work of her team, Dr Davis-Hall acknowledged that some of them have not been among those given honorariums by the government.
The matter has prompted up to 300 healthcare workers in other departments to engage in a sick-out for six consecutive days now, delaying services in an already troubling time for the health system.
Dr Davis-Hall said only two doctors in her department have been given honorariums to date.
“Some of us are feeling at this particular point under-appreciated and overlooked, in particular what has happened with the gift some people call it that was given out?” she said.
“It is a slap in the face when people who have not worked from day one can be given gifts and those who have been on the frontlines get nothing. It is almost heartbreaking. But we don’t work for the money at times. We work because we love what we do. We come to work every day loving what we do. We love the new challenges, the new experiences. Yes, we want to get a salary. At the end of the day we have families, mortgages, things to take care of, but for us in the Emergency Department, the physician staff, for only two doctors to get an honorarium is ridiculous.
“We have hospital workers who themselves have lost their loved ones to COVID and even in that I have lost my father to COVID and I’ve had to pick myself up and remain in the fight.”
The Ministry of Health said 55 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Monday, bringing the nation’s toll to 16,723. One hundred and thirty-seven people are in hospital while 313 people have died from the virus to date.
Yesterday health officials said due to increasing COVID-19 cases, PMH’s A&E Department is “operating at capacity.” The public has been asked to visit community clinics for non-emergency and non-urgent care.