The Ministry of Health has been able to temporarily stave off the imminent collapse of the country’s main COVID-19 treatment network- the parallel healthcare system- as cases currently surge at record levels.

Its most recent effort was the addition of 110 beds to the step-down/transitional facility capacity. This was according to Principal Medical Officer of Institutions Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards during a virtual briefing on Monday.

She explained that the timing of the increased capacity will also help manage the limited staff in comparison to the number of cases.

But the biggest benefit of this increased capacity would be relieving the burden on the wards at the COVID-19 treatment hospitals.”At present, our major need or the demand is in the ward level beds,” Dr Abdool-Richards said.

The additional beds were divided across three facilities; 50 were added to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Debe Campus, 20 at the University of T&T (UTT) Valsayn Campus and 40 at the Point Fortin Hospital. This brings the total bed capacity of the Parallel Healthcare System up to 662. Of these, 572 are ward level beds, 30 are ICU and 60 are HDU.

Already she said it has begun to work as by Monday afternoon, the Caura hospital is expected to decrease from 86 per cent occupancy to 66 per cent.
While the surplus gap between the rate at which patients are being admitted to hospitals in contrast to being discharged is closing the timeline for the imminent collapse of the system has only been delayed by a few days.

“If we continue at this trend, we have about seven days to go,” she said.
On Monday, May 3, Dr Abdool-Richards said the system would collapse within 10 days under the then-current projections.This is why she said citizens need to do their part as well to prevent the disastrous outcome by protecting themselves and their family from COVID-19.

“I’d like to appeal to the population. Increasing beds is not the answer to the pandemic…we as a population need to decrease the demand for hospital beds,” she pleaded.
“We need to continue to practice the public health interventions.”

The Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Division’s Technical Director Dr Avery Hinds indicated cases continue to rise according to the projections presented last week. Though there is some slight variation, it is yet too soon to determine if it would establish itself as a trend.

Reporter: Rishard Khan