(This headline was corrected to clarify that the 46 cases and 21 infections of positive cases at the QEH represent an overall total from January 1.)
Close to 50 patients and 21 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), top officials from the health care facility revealed Monday as they insisted that patient care and the safety of staff won’t be compromised.
And according to Director of Medical Services Dr Clyde Cave those cases were not transmitted staff to staff or staff to patient.
“We have had one doctor from Accident and Emergency and in that case, I believe his mother was positive, so these are identifications of community spread,” he said
Executive Director Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland told today’s edition of Down to Brass Tacks on Voice of Barbados, the development was not unexpected with the advent of community spread.
She said: “Since January 1 we have diagnosed about 46 of the number of patients that have contributed to the national numbers. Forty-six have come from the QEH. The vast majority are diagnosed through Accident and Emergency. We also have persons that have been diagnosed in about seven to eight different wards – as you would expect in community spread – across the hospital.”
Positive COVID-19 cases among staff have also increased. Last week, the QEH reported that 19 employees had tested positive but according to Dr Cave that number had increased to 21.
Cave, who noted that the number keeps changing, also confirmed that most of the cases came via the Accident and Emergency Department and the cases span all categories of workers.
The revelations from the QEH officials came as outspoken General Secretary of the Unity Workers’ Union Senator Caswell Franklyn took to the popular call-in programme to bring attention to the plight of nurses who are reportedly fearful and concerned about the growing positive cases at the Martindales Road facility, a lack of access to Personal Protective Equipment. (PPE) among other issues.
He said he had been approached by “lots of nurses” who say they are not getting the representation they want from their recognised representatives.
Speaking to some of those issues brought to his attention, Franklyn said: “They [QEH] actually test nurses and send them back to work, and then some of these same nurses come down positive and now patients are positive.”
The hospital officials however immediately shot down the claims.
Dr Cave not only maintained that the hospital had an adequate supply of PPE but he pointed out that contact tracing has revealed that in the majority of the 21 cases identified among staff, the source of the virus was outside the hospital.
“What is impressive about that number is that so far other than two [cases] where we have finished the contact tracing, all the others, the source has been from contact outside of the hospital.”
He noted that staff has been wearing their PPE and following all the other procedures and there has been no case of transmission from staff to staff or from staff to patient.
And despite repeated claims from Franklyn of WhatsApp messages he said he received from nurses complaining about the lack of PPE during the call-in programme, Bynoe-Sutherland and nurses who also spoke on air insisted that was not the case.
Bynoe–Sutherland noted that while there is sometimes a divide between the procurement section and the nursing department, the QEH not only had adequate stocks of PPE, but a distribution system was in place and a back-up system that could monitor and evaluate the performance of staff in the distribution exercise.
The hospital CEO also pointed out that a clear plan was in place to handle patients on wards who tested positive for the viral illness that has so far infected 1,732 people in Barbados.
“We continue their care but we isolate them and then we have a very specific and well articulated plan from each department where they are then moved from the QEH through a pre-designated route to the isolation facility and sanitization is done of the place where the patient was located,” she said.
Meanwhile, QEH deputy director of Nursing Services Charmaine Worrell disputed concerns that nurses were being asked to work while awaiting the results of COVID tests.
She said there was no one-size-fits-all arrangement and nurses who needed to be isolated were allowed to do so and all necessary action taken to safeguard staff and patients.
Franklyn urged the hospital authorities to pay attention to the nurses’ concerns while insisting that all nurses should benefit from hazard pay now that COVID-19 was present at the QEH.