Field hospital

SHORT-TERM RESPONSE: The field hospital which was erected on the compound of the Couva Hospital on Tuesday. The field hospitals will provide additional space for the current parallel healthcare system in fighting Covid-19. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

As Covid-19 cases continue to sky-rocket, the Ministry of Health has taken steps to increase bed capacity at hospitals and step-down facilities to ensure sufficient space is available to treat Covid-19 patients.

Among those steps is the setting up of two field hospitals which were donated by the United States government.

Responding to a question on the TTT Morning Show yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said hospital occupancy is not out of control but capacity is being expanded in the event additional beds are needed.

“What is happening in Couva is we are getting some help from the Americans with two field hospitals, one of which is at Couva,” Rowley said.

“It is a temporary hospital space. It is one of the responses if we are getting more people infected and there is a demand for more bed space. A field hospital is what you use to increase your bed space in the short term. It is not out of control, it is a response to what is happening as we experience a higher level of infection.”

Giving further details during yesterday’s virtual news conference, epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said one of the field hospitals is being set up at the Couva hospital and the other will be deployed at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port of Spain.

They are however not in use just yet.

“So, if additional capacity is required, these can be pressed into use and the plans for the actual deployment of these have been outlined. As additional capacity is required, then they will be operationalised. They are currently not operational but available,” Hinds said.

Each field hospital has a capacity of 40 beds, including the capacity for an Intensive Care Unit and High Dependency Unit, thereby adding 80 beds to the parallel healthcare system if needed.

Hinds said over the past few days an additional 130 beds have been made available in step-down facilities, resulting in an overall decrease in hospital occupancy.

Relief valve

Speaking at the news conference, North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) general manager, primary care, Dr Abdul Hamid, said the introduction of the University of Trinidad and Tobago Valsayn campus as a step-down facility has opened up more space for Covid-19 patients.

“The UTT Centre has been set up to ease the burden being put on our major Covid-19 hospitals,” he said.

“So basically, it is supposed to be a relief valve for the major hospitals that are in the current system right now.”

He said the oxygen therapy step-down unit has a capacity for 100 beds which will be used to treat patients who have tested positive and are recovering from Covid-19. Such patients do not require hospital care but are not yet fit to return home, he explained.

Hamid said the NCRHA activated 20 of these beds on Sunday.

Similar facilities will be operationalised at the Point Fortin hospital, he added.

He noted that the introduction of additional beds is being done as the ministry must plan ahead for the worst-case scenario.

Hinds said the increased capacity has resulted in a decrease in overall occupancy.

“The overall occupancy in the ambulatory setting is now 41 per cent, the ICU setting 74 per cent, the HDU setting 93 per cent,” he stated.

However, Hinds said increasing capacity is just an interim solution.

“The decrease in the occupancy is really because of the increase in the total number of beds being counted,” he said.

“We still want to emphasise that as new cases are being diagnosed, these people are ill, they continue to need hospital care, and this is an interim step. It is not a be all and end all solution to the occupancy concern. So, we do want to continue to emphasise the need to reduce the risk of getting ill to reduce the risk of overburdening the healthcare system,” he added.

Best practice

With new facilities and more beds being brought on stream, Hinds assured there is sufficient staff to handle the increased load.

“The staff to patient ratio is maintained at the optimum that is recommended by international best practice within the limits of the human resources that we have,” he said.

“While I cannot, with any degree of specificity, give you ratios from the information in front of me, you can be assured that as the occupancy increases, the staffing is also increased to meet the needs and ensure that optimum care is provided in accordance with international best practice.”

Hinds also assured that sufficient medication is available to treat Covid-19 patients.

He said while there is no specific type of antiviral therapy used for the treatment of Covid-19, there is general supportive care and certain medications and types of steroids that are being used.


Three Opposition MPs are calling on the Government and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) to have a heart and stop disconnecting the water supply of errant customers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein yesterday wrote to WASA’s executive director Lennox Sealey urging him to suspend the drive and display humanity as people are suffering and strapped for cash in the pandemic given the lockdowns.

The same UNC people calling on the Government to instruct WASA to hold its hand on debt collection are the same ones who complain in the Parliament and elsewhere that they constituents are not getting water.

“You cannot have it both ways. You cannot have your cake and eat it,” Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said yesterday, as he responded to calls from several UNC MPs to grant a moratorium on the payment of water rates and stop its disconnection drive during the pandemic because people are under pressure.

Smooth sailing.

Braving inclement weather, Barataria resident Kenneth Campbell, 84, boasted he had gotten his second Sinopharm vaccine at Barataria Health Centre yesterday.

While awaiting his driver, Campbell, father of late forest ranger Keith Campbell (who was killed in the line of duty in 2016), said: “The first vaccine, I got was from a man. I did not feel it. The second vaccine was from a woman, and I felt it. It went well.”

Starting Wednesday and yesterday, he was among thousands of elderly citizens (age 65 and up) who got vaccines under the Health Ministry’s “Triple E System—the Elderly Express Experience.”

Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith is reminding citizens that patrols will be out prior to and during the enforcement of this weekend’s extended curfew.

In a media release issued yesterday, Griffith noted the actions and comments of “social media trained law enforcement experts”, who appeared to be questioning the rationale in implementing roadblocks throughout the country.

Time is critical if you are searching for a missing loved one.

Kelvin Ballantyne had been missing for about three months from his Tobago home before his family members in Trinidad were informed that he had disappeared.

Kelvin, also known as “Redman”, is described by his sister, Cindy Noel, as “one of the most well-known people in Lambeau, and maybe even across the island because of his job as an electrician”.