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Respiratory Hospital Under Serious Pressure Due to COVID-19

With over 10,000 registered COVID-19 cases in country to date, 138 deaths and over 2000 active cases, health authorities and the government are heightening their message of vaccination and protocol obedience to the population.

The island is currently battling a fourth wave of the virus, said to be its most deadly. Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Sharon Belmar-George is calling for all to join in the fight to save lives.

“We continue to ask the public to work with us and exhibit responsible behaviour to manage this fourth wave. Let us all take personal responsibility to keep ourselves and families safe. At present we have available both the Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccine free of charge in country at the various wellness centers. These vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective in protecting persons from developing COVID-19, its severe forms, complications, hospitalizations and death,” she stated.

The Respiratory Hospital, formerly Victoria Hospital, is under serious pressure as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. Medical Director of the hospital Dr. Alisha Eugene-Ford provided an update on its situation earlier this week.

“The Respiratory Hospital has a bed capacity of 123, which can be ramped up to 127. Since we started vaccination from February 1, 2021, to September 20, 2021, we have had 1,623 admissions, out of which 23 were fully vaccinated and 34 with first dose (partially). It must be highlighted that the majority of the vaccinated patients had milder symptoms when compared to unvaccinated patients,” Eugene-Ford noted.

“Specifically, from June we had 136 admissions. In July and August we had 142 and 261 admissions respectfully. As of September, 20, 2021 we have 234: A total of 773 admissions,” she added.

Staff are also suffering from burnout. Management has decided to provide counselling and debriefing services for staff and has made the working environment more conducive by providing a staff lounge, tea corner and staff meals.

The hospital also has had to deal with other issues including an increased demand for medical gas, technological and communication issues and increased patient flow. Forde stated that they have dealt with these issues however.

Government has decided to extend current protocols to the end of September and hopes to see an improvement in the COVID-19 situation in the near future.

“At this stage, we note the overall reduction in transmission rate but as the medical professionals have explained, we are still at a critical phase and we cannot let our guard down, we must ensure that we continue to bring down the transmission rate. After discussions and dialogue with the members of the COVID-19 Management Centre, the decision was made to extend the COVID-19 protocols currently in place,” Minister for Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs Hon. Moses Jn. Baptiste said on Tuesday.

“We hope by that time amended protocols will include benefits for fully vaccinated individuals. The government continues to urge you to get vaccinated and will intensify our efforts to make the vaccine available to you in the best way possible. We acknowledge the sacrifices that everyone has had to make over the last few weeks to prioritize health and safety,” Jn. Baptiste added.

Saint Lucia is working with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to improve the health and safety of citizens and visitors.

According to the CMO, the Regional Tourism and Health Programme was officially launched on Saturday September 18, 2021. The programme, executed by CARPHA, aims to enhance the health and well-being of visitors and locals by strengthening the surveillance system to pick up infectious diseases and capacity building and certification for all tourism related activities.

“This will reduce the negative impact of the industry in a sustainable way. A full schedule of activities is planned between the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism, the various stakeholders and coordinated by CARPHA,” Belmar-George stated.

She added, “With the high level of community spread noted in country at this point, we continue to advise the public to remain vigilant. Adhere to the protocols that are put in place to keep us safe; these include regular hand washing, use of face mask in public places, avoiding crowds and persons with respiratory symptoms and keeping frequently touched surfaces clean.”

From July 25, 2021 to present there has been 5,077 cases at an average of 89 cases per day. During that period there were 58 COVID-19 deaths with a case fatality rate of 1.1%. Females account for 52% of the deaths. The average age of the deaths is 66 years.

The daily infection rate for the past week was 47.9 per 100,000 per day and an average of 86.9 cases per day. In relation to this new wave, from July 25, 2021, 5,077 persons were positive. Fifty-one percent are in the age group 25-49 years with 58% of the cases being female. The majority of the cases are from Castries, Gros- Islet, Vieux Fort and Baboneau.

According to the Ministry of Health, based on contact tracing data, the majority of the cases diagnosed are related to work places and spread between families. Further, 98% of COVID-19 deaths and COVID-19 related deaths at the Respiratory Hospital were unvaccinated.

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