An outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases has forced the temporary closure of the critical kitchen facilities at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and the quarantining of most of the 62 workers in that department.
The hospital’s management told Barbados TODAY in a statement issued this afternoon, that the board took the decision to shut down the kitchen on Tuesday until March 14 after 12 employees in that section tested positive for the viral illness over the last week.
“Over the last week, of the 62 members of staff tested, a total of 12 persons have tested positive for COVID-19. This number is sufficiently significant to trigger the decision for closure of the kitchen. The remaining members of staff will be quarantined at a government facility. After five days, staff members in quarantine will be retested,” the statement added
Those tested positive are currently housed at the Harrisons Point Isolation Facility.
Management has indicated that it all started on February 16, 2021, when a kitchen staff member was diagnosed with the virus.
“A contact tracing exercise was immediately undertaken. Members of staff were risk stratified on a case by case basis to determine their level of exposure. High risk staff were removed from the kitchen, the area deep cleaned and phased mass COVID-19 PCR testing was conducted across the kitchen staff and management,” the QEH top brass explained.
Noting that the daily meal service provided by the kitchen is critical to patient care and recovery, the hospital has instituted alternative measures to ensure the continuity of the provision of meals.
“During these unprecedented times, in addition to the 600 in-patients hospitalized at the QEH, the kitchen has the added responsibility of providing meals for patients spread across the Enmore Isolation Centre, Blackman and Gollop Isolation Centre, and a private nursing home which has been transformed into an isolation facility under the operation of QEH after numerous positive COVID tests amongst patients and staff of the home.”
“In order to maintain services to in-patients across these facilities and minimize any disruption caused by this temporary closure, the provision of in-patient meal services at QEH and Enmore will be outsourced to the School Meals Department of the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training. In addition, a private catering company has been contracted to provide meals to the Blackman and Gollop Isolation Centre and nursing home isolation facility during the period Wednesday, March 3 to Saturday, March 13, 2021,” the medical facility’s leadership announced.
The QEH kitchen will resume normal operations on Sunday, March 14, following another deep clean of the work site and communal spaces such as the lunch and restrooms.
“In reopening, we will take measures to reduce density in the kitchen and still meet deadlines for the delivery of meals to patients. We will also reinforce cleaning of high touch surfaces, and infection prevention and control best-practices for our kitchen. Additional steps to sensitize staff to best practices at home and in social spaces will also be taken,” according to management.
The Board of Management has assured the public that the hospital’s COVID-19 response will continue to revolve around providing patients with quality healthcare whilst safeguarding their wellbeing and that of its staff. ([email protected])