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Medical Chief of Staff of the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) Dr Victor Wheeler says Tobago has adequate intensive care unit (ICU) bed space for Covid-19 patients at this time and is in a “slightly” better place than Trinidad in terms of additional ICU bed capacity.

However, he warned yesterday that this could change if Tobagonians do not become vaccinated.

“At the moment, the Covid ICU that we have has five beds and this morning three of those beds are occupied. So we have space for two. In addition to that, the accident and emergency department has three isolation rooms where we can provide additional care for patients who need an ICU bed,” he said during a Covid-19 virtual news conference hosted by the Tobago House of Assembly’s Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development.

Wheeler said in addition to this, six more beds will become available when infrastructure works at the Covid-19 facility at Fort King George in Scarborough are completed.

The facility formerly housed the Tobago Rehabilitation and Empowerment Centre (TREC).

“Infrastructure works should be completed within another week. We already have some of the equipment coming in. We expect most, if not all, of the equipment to be in place by the middle of November. We have identified some staff to operate the facility, so even though we have adequate capacity for Covid-19 ICU care at the moment, we are actively working on expanding that capacity,” he said.

“But I should make the point that Trinidad, with all its hospitals and all its Covid treatment facilities and much more ICU beds than Tobago, they are close to maximum capacity. If we in Tobago don’t vaccinate, as has been said by the Secretary for Health, as has been said by the Minister of Health, as has been said by all healthcare professionals, and we see that in Tobago the majority of the persons being admitted are unvaccinated, we will never be able to provide all the ICU beds if the population does not get vaccinated.

“This is why we are pleading with persons to get vaccinated because that is the only way to significantly reduce the need for hospital care and ICU care. But at the moment, we do have adequate capacity if that is needed.”

Wheeler noted that Covid-19 cases on the island are “going through a slide”, which has allowed TRHA staff to get a little break.

“Covid ICU has had sometimes one patient. At the moment we have three so we are not at 100 per cent capacity as we were two or three weeks ago, so we have been able to have the staff have some sort of a break. But we expect that with the number of rising Delta cases on the island, that those numbers will increase. You’ll notice Trinidad has already reached 100 per cent capacity. We are not too far behind, but for the moment we are in a slightly better place in terms of additional capacity,” he emphasised.

ICU beds filled to capacity

At Monday’s Ministry of Health Covid-19 news conference, Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, Principal Medical Officer for Institutions, revealed that Covid-19 ICU beds at Couva Hospital, Arima General Hospital, Point Fortin Hospital and St James Medical Complex were filled to capacity while only one bed was unoccupied at Augustus Long Hospital in Pointe-a-Pierre.

She said 96 per cent of the ICU patients at these hospitals were not fully vaccinated.

Wheeler noted yesterday that all three Covid-19 patients whose deaths were reported on Sunday were unvaccinated.

The three patients, all with pre-existing medical conditions, were a 57-year-old woman and two men aged 81 and 89. Tobago’s Covid-19 death toll currently stands at 99. The island reported 17 more Covid-19 cases yesterday, increasing active cases to 309 and total cases since the pandemic started to 3,223.

Five confirmed cases of the Delta variant have been detected in Tobago thus far.

Reporting on Tobago’s vaccination numbers yesterday, THA Secretary of Health Tracy Davidson-Celestine said that to date, 22,354 or 62 per cent of the island’s target population of 36,000 are partially vaccinated, while 20,352 or 57 per cent are fully vaccinated.

She said of the school-aged population of 6,000, the Division set a target to vaccinate 4,200 children.

She said so far, 2,160 pupils, or 51 per cent of the target, have been partially vaccinated, while 1,514 or 36 per cent have been fully vaccinated.

She also stated that 70 per cent of the staff at the Tobago Regional Health Authority have received the first dose of a vaccine. There are 1,608 people employed with the TRHA, Davidson-Celestine noted.

“So the staff and the leadership at the TRHA have been pushing to ensure that all of our medical practitioners and even the supporting staff within the TRHA are fully vaccinated at this time. What we are seeing in terms of the statistics is that the residents of Tobago West are responding at a faster rate when compared to the residents of Tobago East,” she reported.

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Twenty-six additional Covid-19 deaths reported yesterday took the death toll for the first five days of December past 100.

The 26 deaths increased fatalities this month to 104. The death toll since the start of the pandemic in Trinidad and Tobago is now 2,262.

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