Workers erect a fence on the grounds of the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope yesterday.

Barriers were erected at the Mt Hope hospital yesterday, just hours after the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) issued a statement advising of a fresh response to the larger number of people turning up at its hospitals.

The decision to change its response approach came following an emergency meeting held by the NCRHA’s board.

Guardian Media was reliably informed that the barriers are meant to help the hospital’s management control the number of walk-in patients, in what appears to be a strain on the regular health system as the parallel healthcare system set up to handle COVID-19 cases stretches to near bursting point.

In a statement issued yesterday, the NCRHA said it was seeking to improve its COVID-19 testing and care following issues with a record-breaking influx of persons at its facilities.

The NCRHA revealed that the authority held an emergency meeting to discuss issues on Saturday, in direct response to problems caused by a recent 300 per cent increase in positive cases and the associated demand for testing.

“We identified that bottlenecks emerged during the wave which resulted in some congestion in general intake. Our multidisciplinary team met until late last night to rethink our systems and to make the necessary alterations and consequent improvements to the patient and staff experience,” NCRHA chief executive Davlin Thomas said.

While the NCRHA noted that it had already implemented many of the discussed interventions, yesterday, it noted that some were already on their way due to prior planning.

It said that the improvements include adapting inherent capacity to test at a quicker rate, using the NCRHA’s ambulances to supplement those provided by the State’s independent contractor GMRTT, adding barrier systems to segregate COVID-19 patients from other patients, and adding toilet facilities at the Chaguanas District Health Facility and the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex to accommodate the influx.

The NCRHA added that signs have also been installed at COVID-19 testing sites to prevent intermingling between suspected COVID-19 infected persons and regular patients and that tent facilities were outfitted with sanitisation stations, dedicated doffing and donning areas for staff in protective suits, and breathable structure lining for unobstructed airflow.

“They are also fully outfitted with electrical and plumbing capabilities and contain fully stocked and functional resuscitation room equipped with crash cart, oxygen, and defibrillator,” the release said.

The NCRHA also noted that since May 12, over 20 new patient care assistants and customer service representatives were added to the front-line to reduce clinical load and to ensure each patient is given adequate specialised care and attention.

“The cavalry was already on the way and they have arrived today. In addition to the infrastructural adaptations, we have added an army of patient care assistants and CSRs into the system…We will continue to equip ourselves as we engage in the fight of our lives,” Thomas said in the release.

It thanked its staff for working assiduously since the pandemic began, last year.

“No efforts have been spared and no time has been wasted in ensuring that the NCRHA offers every patient their best possible chance…Our collective faith is the reservoir from which our resolves will continue to draw sustenance,” the release said.

Guardian Media understands that based on the current rate of infection, it takes between six and 10 days for a person to receive the results of their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test through the public health care system.