Sands: 1,100 people tested for COVID-19 to date

Sands: 1,100 people tested for COVID-19 to date
A healthcare worker assists with COVID-19 testing of more than 200 of his colleagues on Saturday. (EWN/Royston Jones Jr.)

Ministry has spent $2 million on PPEs

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said officials must continue to prioritize testing as there are only 1,000 swabs remaining in country.

Sands noted there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for at least another month, with another shipment of swabs expected to arrive this week.

In an address to Parliament, Sands said despite an inventory of at least 4,000 PCR test kits, the country remains challenged to expand testing to reach what he called an elusive goal of testing on demand.

He said the ministry is exploring options to increase capacity, including ordering 3D printed swabs, among other means.

Despite the international supply chain limitations, Sands said those who wish to be tested will soon be able to do so at approve private labs.

The ministry planned to expand testing for all healthcare workers with potential exposure; those in nursing homes and inmates at the Department of Correctional Services over the weekend.

However, Sands explained efforts had to be shifted following the exposure of more than 200 healthcare workers.

There have been eight confirmed cases in the Medical/Surgical Ward at PMH, with one of the cases linked to the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC).

A patient was transferred from the SRC’s Robert Smith Unit to the Medical Surgical Ward II at PMH for further medical management on April 5.

According to Sands, the patient received treatment at PMH and was discharged on April 15 to SRC.

A few days later, the Medical Surgical Ward II of PMH was declared compromised and closed to new admissions on April 18.

The initial Robert Smith Unit patient was returned to PMH confirmed positive for COVID-19 on April 20.

This patient is now receiving care at the Doctor’s Hospital West facility, Sands said.

Among those exposed were 46 staff members at Sandilands were identified for risk exposure assessment.

Sands said potentially exposed workers were tested on Saturday, and 25 percent of the results returned negative for COVID-19.

The remaining results of those tests are expected to be returned today.

“A further compounding factor are the confirmed cases on the island of Bimini,” Sands said.

“This has of necessity resulted in screening and testing of contacts on that island, with further draw down on scarce testing resources. With only six hundred swabs remaining, we must continue to prioritize testing.”

However, Sands noted the government has not abandoned its commitment to monitor and protect the more vulnerable populations in long-term care institutions.

He said a database is being compiled and the ministry will conduct a series of training sessions in area of infection prevention and control beginning today.

He said healthcare workers identified as high-risk upon review, will also be tested.

There have been 80 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas, and fifteen of those confirmed cases are healthcare workers.

The average case of a COVID-19 patient has 50 contacts, according to the minister.

Sands maintained The Bahamas has not been challenged with ventilator shortages, adding six additional new ventilators had been recently sourced.

As it relates to PPEs, Sands said the Ministry of Health has spent more than $2 million to ensure optimal levels continue to be available and accessible.

To this end, the Elizabeth MP said the ministry has sought to ensure adequate and sustained supplies through multiple procurement measures and ongoing donations.

He said the supply of PPE kits, surgical masks, N95, KN95, visors, boot covers, and gowns is more than adequate for up to at least one month and more were being procured from local and international vendors.

“Having the responsibility for the provision of select PPEs to other various government agencies and institutions, such as national security and other partner agencies my Ministry has to date spent more than $2 million on PPEs and this is expected to increase by millions at time progresses.”