NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A woman with “significant clinical suspicion” of COVID-19 died in Princess Margaret Hospital shortly after being airlifted from Bimini last night.
The patient was tested for COVID-19, and the results are expected this afternoon.
Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said it was a “very unfortunate case”.
“We do not know her COVID status at this point,” the minister said.
“She has been tested because there were clinical signs suggestive of COVID, but we do not know those results at this point.
“She was short of breath and she had a travel history.
“So, you know without going into all the details certainly we can confirm there was significant clinical suspicion of COVID.”
Sands said upon receiving the patient’s test results, health officials will advise the family and the public.
Those test results could be completed as early as today, according to the minister.
Asked whether the transportation of the patient delayed care, Sands said: “What I can say is every effort was made in order to get this patient to definitive, intensive care. And those efforts were ultimately successful, but she arrested shortly after arriving in Nassau.”
Sands said he has heard stories about the patient’s access to care and medication.
He reminded the public that while the patient’s COVID-19 status remains unknown, there is no specific medication for the virus.
“I’ve had questions asked about the availability of ventilators on the Family Islands
“It is very important to understand that a ventilator in the wrong hands is a dangerous tool.
“If you put a breathing tube in somebody’s airway, COVID, which is ordinarily spread through droplets will become aerosolized, and you have the potential of infecting or contaminating everyone in the room. There is a reason why patients should only be intubated in the appropriate settings by individuals trained to do so.”
There is no intensive care unit on Bimini, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Island, Andros, among others.
Sands said as the government reviews its national response to the virus, it has to be “honest, [and] direct with the Bahamian public to have them understand the implications”.
“This is not about machines,” he said.
“This is about the holistic ability to provide competent, intensive care support to critically ill patients and that can only be done in Grand Bahama and Nassau at this time.”
The incident has reignited concerns over health capacity in the Family Islands — an issue the health minister said the government has been working on for many weeks.
Sands was asked whether the incident will prompt officials to implemented additional measures for suspected COVID patients or critically-ill patients in the Family Islands.
As it relates to the suspected COVID-19 patient, Sands said: “There were exigencies about this particular situation that we did not cover for 24 hours. As a matter of fact, I want to say thank you to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force [which] ultimately scrambled vessels and aircraft to bring this patient ultimately to New Providence.”
Health officials expect more cases over the next 20 days, confirming there has been community transmission.
Sands reiterated the “surge” has begun in The Bahamas.
He said: “We would like to do everything that we can to minimize the number of people infected; the number of people hospitalized and the number of people who die.”
There have been 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas — two in Grand Bahamas and 12 in New Providence.
There have been no confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
The Ministry of Health is expected to provide an update on the status of the virus in the country at a press conference later today.
Globally, more than 800,000 people have been infected by the potentially deadly virus.
More than 39,000 have died, while another 172,000-plus people have recovered.