Dr Ian Sammy, head, Accident and Emergency Department, Scarborough General Hospital, says the institution has systems in place for dealing with infectious diseases like the novel coronavirus – covid-19.
He said so on Wednesday during a news conference at the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development's head office, Habib Building, Wilson Road, Scarborough.
The briefing was called to update the media on the status of the Tobagonian who developed a fever after returning from China.
The woman, who returned home last Friday, was initially quarantined at her home but was taken to the Scarborough Hospital on Monday after she developed a low fever.
However, tests carried out on the woman, who was studying abroad on scholarship, revealed she has not contracted the coronavirus. She is still being monitored at the hospital.
Sammy said when the hospital, through its surveillance, noticed an increase in flu-like illnesses in October 2019, it revisited and updated its standing plans for infectious diseases.
"So, when we realised that we needed to adjust these plans to deal with covid-19, it was not as if we were starting from scratch. Covid-19 is a respiratory infection caused by a virus, was very similar to the influenza threat we had in November and December," he told reporters.
Sammy added based on World Health Organisation and Pan-American Health Organisation guidelines, the hospital was able to adjust those plans to take into consideration "some of the special differences in this virus."
Saying those plans have been in place since the beginning of February, Sammy said when the hospital was informed of the return of the Tobagonian, it again visited its plans to ensure the resources needed were in place and staff adequately sensitised about their roles, in case anything happened.
"Bear in mind that at that time, our information was that the patient was asymptomatic."
Sammy said the hospital was later informed the student had developed a low temperature fever with no other symptoms.
Sammy said he and a head nurse quickly consulted with staff and identified specific individuals to deal with the patient.
"We again had a walk-through of the protocol for dealing with the patient, which centres around early identification, isolation, appropriate treatment and contact tracing."
Saying they were fully prepared when the patient arrived at the hospital on Monday, Sammy said staff had the necessary protective equipment and a pre-identified area for isolation had been prepared.
He said the patient was completely asymptomatic and very co-operative.
"We were able to assess the patient, take the patient's vital signs and take the necessary samples, which was then taken to the public health lab in Trinidad for testing."
Sammy said the patient remained in the hospital's isolation area for several hours and was then transferred to a pre-identified area in the hospital under the care of a nurse.
"During this time, we ensured we maintained proper hygiene methods and maintained what we call social distancing, making sure that unless absolutely necessary, a certain distance was kept between ourselves and the patient and also we wore the necessary personal protective equipment."