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Idi Stuart

Anna-Lisa Paul

Six nurses assigned to the Cardiology Ward Number 3 at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), Mt Hope tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday.

The infections were confirmed by President of the T&T Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) Idi Stuart.

Health officials do not believe the nurses contracted the virus in the hospital but the Nursing Association is suggesting otherwise.

The association is raising concerns with the conditions under which nurses work.

There are usually between nine and 12 registered nurses assigned to the ward.

Stuart yesterday claimed that COVID-19 positive patients are being kept at the EWMSC as there is no space left at the Couva Hospital to accommodate them.

During an interview with Guardian Media around 1 pm, he said urgent calls were coming from nurses at the EWMSC who had been anxiously waiting on ambulances to collect COVID-19 positive patients for transfer to the Couva Hospital.

Stuart revealed, “It generally takes between six and 24 hours to get confirmed positive patients out, but over this last week, staff have begun to realize it was taking a little longer, like two days to get the patients out and now they are saying, we are calling the COVID Response Team to come for these patients but are being told they are out of space.”

“So currently, the EWMSC is housing persons right in the A&E Department and under the tents, in excess of ten patients. It is the same thing at Port-of-Spain General Hospital (POSGH), and the same thing at the Sangre Grande Hospital.”

He added, “Nurses in the A&E Department also have to be treating these patients.”

After weeks of receiving calls from members about the conditions at the POSGH and the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH), Stuart visited both facilities on Tuesday, and confirmed, “I can tell the nation, it is not an exaggeration.”

Commenting on the lack of beds in the parallel healthcare system and the projected collapse of it within seven days if the record number of cases continue, the TTRNA head said, “The only thing left is to convert a number of these hospitals into COVID facilities themselves.”

Stuart claimed nurses were being forced to operate in less than ideal conditions under the tents that have been set up at all the hospitals to triage patients.

At the POSGH, he said it was particularly bad.

“There are water-logged boards for them to walk on, and the stench is unbearable some days as the urinals are located to the back of them, and there is stagnant water with mosquitoes.”

Claiming that symptomatic and asymptomatic patients are mixing together at this location, he said people whose symptoms are mild are being told to go home and isolate, but as many of them leave the facility to access public transport – it poses a public threat.

Stuart cited the chronic shortage of nursing personnel as one of the crippling factors affecting the healthcare system currently.