COVID-19 protocols put in place at Saint Lucia’s main health facility, the Owen King European (OKEU) Hospital, were tested recently when three members of staff, two physicians and an administrative employee, became victims of the virus.
It is unclear how well the hospital withstood COVID-19’s encroachment on its premises at the initial stage of the discovery, however this week Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Belmar-George revealed that staff members being infected was something the hospital anticipated and made preparations for.
“It also gave the hospital the opportunity to review (its) protocols and policies to ensure adherence at any level within the hospital setting,” she said, adding that the hospital is seen as a high risk institution.
“It is one of the eventualities we anticipated would happen at some point,” CMO George reiterated.
Some of the plans the hospital has should COVID-19 enters its doors include quarantining persons in the best way possible, while at the same time continuing to provide its services to the public, recruitment of staff from other health facilities, even going as far as enlisting staff on a part time basis to ensure emergencies are dealt with.
The CMO informed that should the Respiratory Hospital, formerly Victoria Hospital, reaches its capacity, a plan is in place to deal with that.
Noting that 80 percent of the cases at the Respiratory Hospital are in the mild to moderate stages, Dr. George said persons within that category, once they have the capacity for isolation at home, would be allowed to stay at home while those at a more severe and moderate stage of the virus would fill the beds at the hospital.
Saint Lucia had to deal with only one severe case of COVID-19, and so far has registered no deaths.
Saint Lucia, over the past few days, saw an incredible rise in the number of cases spread over a large geographical area from Gros Islet in the North to Vieux Fort and Laborie in the south. Health workers also engaged in an unprecedented testing drive, testing students at a secondary school, employees at a supermarket, hotels, homes, public ministries, bars, communities, sports teams, gyms and more. The Ministry of Health, to date, has conducted in excess of 10,000 tests for the virus with massive testing done at the OKEU Hospital and elsewhere.
On Wednesday the Ministry received confirmation of eight new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases diagnosed to date in country to 73. There are now 46 active cases isolated and in care.
The CMO noted that there is a distribution of cases to additional districts, which points to the widening in transmission of the virus across the island.
“We must remain vigilant. We must remain committed to doing all within our control to limit the spread of COVID-19 amongst us. Everyone needs to act responsibly to reduce our exposure to the virus. Anyone with respiratory symptoms like cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat should not be at work, socializing or in any public place,” CMO George warned.
She said it is important for persons who are unwell seek care promptly at the closest Community Respiratory Clinic, reminding everyone to: – wash and sanitize hands often throughout the day – always wear a mask while in public – maintain a separation of six feet from others while in public, which is about two arm’s length apart.