BYisrael: Don’t treat covid19 patients at Scarborough General

One of the areas in the intensive care unit at the Scarborough General Hospital for covid19 patients.   - DAVID REID
One of the areas in the intensive care unit at the Scarborough General Hospital for covid19 patients. - DAVID REID

Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) deputy political leader Dr Faith BYisrael believes the Scarborough General Hospital should not be used to treat covid19 patients.

“This is not best practice and, as a matter of fact, an assessment of the Italian response shows that this was one of their biggest mistakes.”

She was responding on Tuesday to last week’s media tour of the island’s two isolation facilities – the Scarborough hospital and the Tobago Rehabilitation and Empowerment Centre at Fort King George.

The tour, done on Friday last week by the hospital’s acting medical chief of staff Dr Victor Wheeler, was organised by the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development.

BYisrael, a public health practitioner, noted Carlo Borghetti, vice-premier of Lombarty, Italy, had recently made the same observation about health care facilities being used to care for covid19 patients.

Up to press time on Tuesday, Italy, the epicentre of the European outbreak, was reported to have 135,586 confirmed covid19 patients and 17,127 deaths.

She quoted Borghetti as saying in an article: “The biggest mistake we made was to admit patients infected with covid19 into hospitals throughout the region. We should have immediately set up separate structures exclusively for people sick with coronavirus.”

BYisrael said Borghetti had recommended in the article that covid19 patients not be sent into healthcare facilities that are uninfected.

She said Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram made the same point at Tuesday’s Ministry of Health media briefing.

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) minority councillor argued there is no need to build hard structures to care for covid19 patients.

She said Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian aid organisation, headquartered in the US, has been using tents as temporary hospitals.

There have been calls for the old Scarborough hospital to be refurbished to cater specifically to covid19 patients.

However, Wheeler said that was not feasible because of the staff constraints and the old hospital had been unoccupied for the past ten years.

“There was a reason we vacated it because it was rundown and the type of work that is needed to be done to improve it to a current hospital, it would not take place in a couple of months,” he had told reporters, last Friday.

Wheeler said the Scarborough hospital created what he called two parallel streams to provide for healthcare – a new isolation facility to treat covid19-positive patients, and a facility where triage assessments are done, just outside of the accident and emergency department.

“These two areas are actually separate from the hospital. We have locked them off from the rest of the hospital so that we can have normal healthcare continue in an environment where there are no covid19 positive patients.”

Neither Wheeler nor Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine could be reached for comment.

During a virtual news conference last week, PDP deputy leader Farley Augustine urged the health division’s covid19 task force to take advantage of BYisrael’s expertise in public health as Tobago faces the pandemic. On that occasion, Augustine said the issue was not about party politics but saving lives.

BYisrael confirmed she had not been approached to assist the task force.

The division said in a statement on Tuesday, Tobago had recorded its fourth confirmed covid19 positive case. It said the patient is in isolation and is being closely monitored.

The first person to test positive for the virus died early on Sunday and was buried later that day at the Buccoo public cemetery.

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