By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOP public health officials have warned that the country cannot sustain the continued rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations “for much longer” as both resources and staff remain stretched beyond capacity.
Julian Rolle, Public Hospitals Authority chairman, said COVID-19 has strained public health, leaving the system completely “overburdened” and in “unprecedented stress.”
“Our doctors and nurses are worn out with the unrelenting pressure being caused by COVID-19,” he said during a virtual press conference Friday. “Presently, about five to 10 percent of our staff is quarantined due to exposure to the virus.”
“Some staff members have had multiple quarantines and the number of staff unable to perform their duties due to quarantine has now reached the point where it’s becoming difficult to staff our facilities properly.”
Dr Crystal Wells, of Princess Margaret Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department said the hospital is currently in the worst state it has ever been in since the pandemic began.
She said due to increasing COVID-19 cases and limited bed capacity, officials have been forced to render care in PMH’s food court, on the porch among other places.
“When we compare this third wave to that of the first and second, this is brutal and relentless due to the high volume of COVID and non-COVID presenting to the emergency department for acute care,” Dr Wells said, adding that workers are burnt out.
“At this time, we have exhausted all available spaces in our current footprint. In terms of our COVID response, we have extended into the old geno-practice clinic as well as the food court of Princess Margaret Hospital and once again, we are rendering acute care on the porch.”
“…People are dying from COVID-19 and we cannot sustain what is happening in terms of our health care and providing care. We cannot continue like this.”
At the Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama, PHA officials said similar challenges are being experienced at facilities there.
They revealed that some 216 staff members have been affected by COVID-19. One of them recently died, it was said yesterday.
In terms of resources, Dr Karen Rowe, an anesthesiologist at PMH, said: “We’re running short on drugs, oxygen, thyphlo units and ventilators. The surges in the US are prolonging the delivery times that we have for medications and sometimes provisions are unavailable.”
Doctors are also disturbed that more and more younger people are dying from this virus in this third wave.
“We are now seeing young people dying daily. In the last two months, these numbers have been climbing,” Dr Rowe added.
“It’s affecting us mentally and emotionally. We could see a patient alive and breathing and leave them for a few minutes to get something else done and when we see them again, they’re unresponsive and not breathing.”
She also spoke about the virus’ impact on people seeking care for non-COVID related illnesses.
“We have non COVID patients in need of care as well as COVID patients and in our non-COVID patients, they need services such as surgeries, which they are unable to get done,” Dr Rowe continued.
“We have patients who are waiting for surgeries for months and they cannot get in. Although patients are screened prior to admissions, we (see instances) of persons being exposed to positive COVID patients on the wards and contracting diseases because of this exposure.”
However, officials said infection rates and hospitalisations can be greatly reduced if more Bahamians get vaccinated and follow the current health protocols.
According to Dr Nikkiah Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Diseases Programme at the Ministry of Health, 95 percent of recent virus-related hospitalisations were unvaccinated people.
“Between the period of August 1 to September 8... we also admitted 400 people of COVID and that can tell you how bad this wave is and I can tell you preliminary that 95 percent of those admissions from COVID were not vaccinated. Approximately four percent of people had one dose of the vaccine, many less than fourteen days after the receipt,” Dr Forbes told reporters Friday.
“There were three persons and that accounted for less than one percent of fully vaccinated people who had a breakthrough infection and they all lived. Of those people who died from COVID..., ninety five percent of those persons were unvaccinated.”
“Five percent had one dose of the vaccine and no persons admitted to Princess Margaret in that time period were fully vaccinated.”
The Ministry of Health said 60 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Thursday, bringing the nation’s tally to 19,335. One hundred and eighty-eight people are in hospital while 453 people have died from the virus as of September 9.