Hospital staff at the Emergency Department of the Point Fortin Area Hospital, on Wednesday.

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As COVID-19 statistics continue to climb, staffers at the Point Fortin Area Hospital say the facility is now a full-fledged COVID-19 treatment centre rather than a step down facility.

Last week, the South West Regional Health Authority revealed that the old Area Hospital had been converted as a step-down and the new Point Fortin Hospital was transformed for active COVID-19 treatment.

A source, who requested anonymity, said the hospital was overwhelmed with staff shortages and the area had poor cellular reception.

“Because of the high number of infections, some of the ill COVID patients are now being treated at the Area Hospital so it is not a step-down,” the source said.

Unlike previous days, meals were sent up on time to the COVID patients at the new Point Fortin Hospital and sources said the ICU and HDU were functional with ventilators. There had been no deaths at the hospital since its conversion, the source added.

But responding to questions raised by the Guardian Media, officials at the SWRHA said the Point Fortin Hospital is adequately staffed.

“To augment any manpower shortages, the Human Resources department has recruited or reassigned personnel to satisfy Infection Prevention Controls and HSE protocols, as per patient to nurse/doctor ratio,” the SWRHA said.

The authority also said it was moving to improve communications at the facility.

“The SWRHA’s Information Technology & Communications Department is working assiduously with external providers to ensure effective communications mechanisms are in place at the facility. In short order, this challenge will be managed which will include principally medical, nursing and quality departments having the required interface with patients, relatives and staff,” the Authority said.

Asked how the conversion to a COVID facility has worked so far, the authority said, “Within the last few days, with the support of staff, valued patients, the Ministry of Health and other key stakeholders, the SWRHA has efficiently managed the Point Fortin Hospital’s transition into a COVID-19 facility.”

“As espoused by the Minister of Health, this facility provides institutional support and bed management, due to the increased infection rate,” the authority added.

It said the staff members are devising innovative and creative means to deliver excellent patient care and customer service to our clients.

“While there are always methods to improve, we are constantly evolving to meet any challenge, finding common ground on the way ahead on any issue,” the authority said.

It also noted that services have been realigned to other facilities at the Point Fortin Health Centre while those with emergencies can continue to seek care at the San Fernando General Hospital and the Siparia Medical Facility.