Field hospital to house recovering COVID patients

Field hospital to house recovering COVID patients

Staff reporter

Friday, September 25, 2020

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JAMAICAN health officials can now breathe easy with the donation of an adjustable field hospital by the United States Government to assist with the island's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

After touring the facility at National Chest Hospital yesterday, during an official handover by United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia and US Navy Admiral Craig Faller, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the hospital has beefed up the country's bed capacity.

“For us, it adds bed capacity, because we have had to dedicate significant bed capacity to COVID patients. We have 40 beds here, and it is a modular facility so it can be improved. What it comes with — the beds and some other critical infrastructure — it allows us now to plan for the contingency of the need for it.

“It does give us some additional comfort that if a Jamaican needs a bed, based on the conditions and if our hospitals become exhausted, we have a modular facility here that allows us to do that,” Tufton told the Jamaica Observer.

The field hospital, which has the capacity to house 70 patient beds, has eight reconfigurable compartments that have been equipped to operate autonomously.

It includes a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) and ultraviolet, light-air scrubber system, two diesel generators, and eight air conditioning units. Medical teams using the hospital can configure it to isolate patients and conduct surgical operations, if needed.

The facility, which came at a cost of US$753,000, was purchased as part of the US Southern Command's (SOUTHCOM) ongoing assistance to nations responding to the global pandemic in the Caribbean and Latin America, and was funded by SOUTHCOM's Humanitarian Assistance Programme.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie said that, based on what the field hospital currently offers, it will not be used to house critically ill patients, but rather patients who are recovering from the virus.

“The most important thing is that the most seriously ill patients are going to remain in the traditional hospital setting. Although the facility has the basic features, as it is now what we would need to care for a patient, there are many other things that we wouldn't be able to do, especially dealing critically ill patients.

“What we are seeing is the basic structure, but it can be upgraded. They have different compartments, which mean that we could possibly equip one compartment to deal with critically ill persons and another to be used even for surgeries.

“That is not to say that we could not equip it and have all the necessary things but right now, where we are in the pandemic, we are not seeing a lot of critically ill patients or a lot of moderately ill patients. So, those will still remain in the traditional hospital setting.

“Where we have a need, especially where we have patients who are recovering and they don't need to be in a hospital per se but they are not quite ready for home, those are the patients that we will put in a setting like this,” said Dr Bisasor-McKenzie.

In terms of future use, the chief medical officer said the facility could go a far way to assist with disaster relief.

“Especially in terms of our response to, for example, hurricanes and other natural disasters, this will be a tremendous tool for us to use.

“It takes out a little bit of our uncertainty in terms of how we manage those situations, so it is great to have it here. We are still in the hurricane season and remember, we're on the earthquake belt, so to have this here is a great addition to what we have for the health system,” she said.

In addition to the field hospital, SOUTHCOM has also funded the donation of patient beds and hand-held thermometers, at a cost of approximately US$86,000.

Overall, the US Government has provided Jamaica with US$2 million in foreign assistance funding to support the country's ongoing response to COVID-19 and efforts to prevent and control infectious diseases.

Speaking on the long-standing bilateral partnership between Jamaica and the United States, Ambassador Tapia reiterated the continued support that his country's Government has committed to provide to the Latin America and Caribbean region.

“This field hospital symbolises another milestone in the understanding of partnership between two countries. Whether it is security, business or public health, the United States of America and Jamaica have a very strong tradition of cooperation in times of success and in great challenges, which we are facing today,” said Tapia.

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