A member of the public walks on the compound of the San Fernando General Hospital yesterday.

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A COVID-19 patient was kept in the Intensive Care Unit of the San Fernando General Hospital last week without healthcare workers’ knowledge.

This was confirmed yesterday by the Southwest Regional Health Authority.

A source who requested anonymity said the patient was in the hospital for several days before a positive result was issued. By that time, over 70 nursing staff, medical workers and auxiliary staff had worked on the ward.

“None of the staff was informed about this patient being a potential COVID-19 case, or that the patient was even swabbed,” the source said.

“Plus only two symptomatic nurses have been swabbed and sent on sick leave.”

An internal memo was circulated advising the rest of the staff to take precautions. The memo advised secondary contacts to report their temperature at least twice on the shift to their supervisor; report to the nearest health facility if they experience symptoms and continue taking precautions at work and home.

The source said two other patients in the ICU were not tested for COVID.

“Staff and relatives had contact with these exposed patients. We practice team nursing, thus not only the assigned nurse cared for the patient. There were multiple medical officers in contact with the patient and staff,” the source added.

The source also said patients were transferred to assigned areas.

“The room where the patient was nursed was cleaned by the nurses with cleaning solutions that were available. It was not professionally cleaned or cleaned with any guidelines that are recommended for COVID-19. Also, within hours of cleaning the room patients were transferred in,” the source added.

Saying they were disappointed and disheartened by the handling of this situation, the source said, “Our concerns seem to fall on deaf ears. Responses from our seniors are not conducive to safeguarding our best interest. How will we ever flatten the curve with situations like this? There are 70-plus nursing staff in ICU, not to mention auxiliary staff medical doctors. Better must be done.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, SWRHA’s communications manager Kevon Gervais said around 9 am on September 1, a patient arrived at the Accident and Emergency Department with a medical issue unrelated to COVID-19.

“Consistent with all emergency department protocols, the patient was triaged by attending physicians (which included screening for COVID-19) and immediately assessed to be transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). While being screened, the patient (and accompanying relative) denied any respiratory symptoms,|” Gervais said.

However, he said while in ICU the patient later developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and was immediately swabbed and the results communicated expeditiously to the attending physicians.

“At this point, the patient was transferred to an appropriate parallel healthcare institution to effectively manage his medical challenges,” Gervais said.

He noted that “all healthcare workers who attended to the patient were referred to our internal Occupational Medicine department, as is standard protocol and have tested negative for the virus.”

He noted, “Additionally, SWRHA notes that all Infection and Prevention Control (IPC) mechanisms were in place in treating this and all other patients, who present at any of our facilities.” Gervais assured that capacity space for ventilators does not pose a concern for medical professionals at this time, noting that the patient has been removed from the SFGH and is now at a state facility.