NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With health care facilities in New Providence and Grand Bahama reaching capacity, healthcare workers warn the government that they are at a “tipping point” as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the country.
Bahamas Doctors Union President Dr Melisande Bassett said staff members at the Princess Margaret Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department have become compromised with the “overwhelming” number of patients.
Several nurses, doctors and staff from the department called in sick yesterday, according to union representatives.
“If you notice everyone who works here is aware of the increase in patients”, Bassett said.
“…We have a finite capacity to hold patients and with the onslaught and the increased numbers that we received, we knew that we needed a plan ASAP to deal with that and if we didn’t have such a plan, we would get to a tipping point.
“This morning we are at a tipping point, where our staff members have become compromised because of the overwhelming number of patients with suspected COVID symptoms presenting to A&E.”
Bassett advised that all isolation rooms are occupied.
She furthered that four stand-alone rooms were lost in the Legacy Unit during the passage of Hurricane Isaias, and additional rooms and spaces are needed to account for the number of patients being seen on a daily basis.
“Our staff is concerned and being compromised because we have those patients under investigation on the floor,” she continued.
“So today they have removed themselves because of the risk to themselves and their families, if they contract COVID-19.”
Bassett said health workers at A&E are also concerned about the health of patients who have been waiting without proper assessment because there is no place to evaluate them in a safe manner and protective environment.
“We are in quandary right now,” she added.
“It’s an emergency situation that needs to be addressed, so the public can be safe and our staff is safe as well.”
Bassett noted that workers are being told that if they do have a positive COVID-19 test, it will not be considered an industrial-related incident and any time off will come out of vacation time.
She said several teams of health care workers at PMH are out of the system because of inadvertent exposure on the wards in theatre.
It is unclear exactly how many health care workers are out of the system.
She called on the relevant authorities to speak to union representatives to rectify the situation.
“The situation is at a boiling point, a tipping point, it has erupted actually, and more needs to be done to correct it.”
The Public Hospitals Authority announced a reconfiguration of its wards at PMH, the Rand and the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center last week in order to manage the surge.
During a national address on Monday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed that ICU beds were at capacity and that non-critical care beds were approaching capacity.
He announced a nationwide two-week lockdown – after which assessments will be made to determine if it will be extended.
Minnis said the lockdown will provide the opportunity for enhanced contact tracing, which will identify cases before they become very ill and prevent the spread of infection by the contacts.