Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards

Sascha Wilson

In an attempt to free up space in the over burdened parallel health care system, the Ministry of Health has introduced a decanting system for recovering patients to move from the hospitals to step down facilities.

Making the announcement at the ministry’s press conference, principal medical officer Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards said this would be the fourth level of care.

Reiterating that the issue is one of supply and demand, she said there has been an increasing number of cases with a rolling average is close to 300 for the past seven days.

“We have found that approximately 15 persons of every 100 confirmed cases require hospitalisation and the level of care they require actually comes from the ward level patients,” she said.

Explaining that there are three levels of care, she said one is the ward level where patients function independently but may require some low flow oxygen intermittently, may have co morbidities and are unable to isolate home.

The other is the high dependency unit patients who require care inclusive of oxygen therapy and a more concertive effort from the nursing personnel and the intensive care unit for critical patients who are unconscious and ventilated using a ventilator.

Noting that the major demand is in the ward level beds, she said over the weekend the ministry of health in conjunction with the regional health authorities implemented and increased the overall bed capacity of the hospitals to 110.

She said,”We have designated a fourth level of care which is called a step down or a half way house between persons recovering from the hospital but who are not yet fit to go home.”

She said there a few benefits of this new level of care.

“Firstly, persons are between the hospital in terms of the ward and home. This means that they are really able to function a little bit more independently, there level of care may be less but they are still being observed by on call physicians who are on site and nurses. And it prepares them mentally at this point of time to really have an increase sort of, in terms of their mental health and otherwise.

“Secondly it allows the freeing up of spaces in the continuing facilities. So it means that persons are able to move into new facilities which are the secondary and tertiary care facilities,” she added.

Giving a breakdown of the increase in ward level beds, she said there are now 50 more beds at the Debe facility, 20 more beds at UTT Valsayn and the Point Fortin facility got 40 additional beds.

This increase the overall capacity of the parallel health care system from 572 to 662. Explaining how the new system is working, she said this morning (Monday) the Couva Hospital was at 82 percent but they were able to decant 12 patients and they expected to have a total of 20 people stepped down.

She noted that another benefit is the better use of hospital staff who are required to be in the hospitals.

“I would like to reiterate to the population that increasing beds is not the answer to the COVID 19,” said Abdool-Richards who urged the public to decrease the demand for hospital beds by continue to practice the COVID 19 measures, including proper mask wearing, social distancing, washing and sanitizing hands, avoid congregating and co mingling.

Epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds said the COVID 19 cases as of May 9 have almost reached the total number of cases for April which was 2798. Therefore, he said the cases are expected exceed April’s total.

However, he is hoping that the latest public health measures will bear fruit and by the end of the week they see a decrease in the upward trend.

He noted that 37 per cent of the swabs for COVID 19 has been returning with a positive result. Noting that the majority of infections are in the 25 to 49 age group, he said there is a slight majority of men over women. However, he said previously 75 percent of the deaths were male, but now the he percentage of deaths in women have increased.

Additionally, he said while 70 percent of the deaths had accounted for the 60 and up age group, it now only accounts to 65 or 66 per cent as there have been more deaths in the under 60 age group.

Hinds also said that there has been an increase in community pockets. He said the cases in communities have jump from the 11 or 20 people to 50 cases.

So far, he said the cases continues to rapidly increases and that number needs to be reduced to avoid the parallel health care system reaching hospital capacity.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said the only way to combat the virus is through vaccination. Reiterating that 70 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated for herd immunity, he encouraged people to take the vaccine when it becomes available.