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.
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.
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.