Health officials have sounded an alarm that the Covid-19 intensive care units in Trinidad and Tobago are running out of room to treat critically ill infected patients.
With just one ICU bed free in Trinidad’s parallel healthcare system and a “potential” increase in Covid-19 cases, they have again urged the population to get vaccinated to avoid severe illness and hospitalisation.
At yesterday’s Covid-19 virtual news conference, principal medical officer for institutions Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards and epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds painted a grim picture of T&T’s Covid-19 situation.
Abdool-Richards indicated that of the 52 ICU beds across five public hospitals under the parallel healthcare system in Trinidad, 51 were occupied by Covid-19 patients.
She noted that only two of the 51 ICU patients were fully vaccinated.
Further compounding the dire situation, she revealed that nine of the 27 critically ill patients awaiting transfer from the traditional Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments of various hospitals to the parallel healthcare system required ICU care.
“So, in addition to us having reached almost maximum capacity, nine persons are awaiting ICU care in the parallel healthcare system and are being ventilated and managed in the Accident and Emergency departments. Of those nine persons, none of those persons are fully vaccinated,” Abdool-Richards lamented.
She said this was the exact reason she and other health officials, including thoracic medical director at Caura Hospital, Dr Michelle Trotman, have been repeatedly pleading with the population not to be prematurely comforted by T&T’s overall hospital occupancy levels, which had been consistently under 40 per cent for the past 101 days.
“This morning I come to you with grave concern, as I can confirm that the Intensive Care Unit demand within our country has now outstripped or is equal to the supply of beds,” she stated.
At last Saturday’s news conference, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh warned that Covid-19 ICU beds were approximately 90 per cent filled.
When hospital beds neared full capacity and Covid-19 cases started surging in April, the Government initiated lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Asked whether another country-wide lockdown can be triggered given that T&T’s Covid-19 ICU departments are nearing full capacity, Abdool-Richards said all decisions regarding restrictions or relaxation of lockdown measures are policy decisions taken by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
Added beds also fully occupied
Abdool-Richards said in preparation for the arrival of the Covid-19 Delta variant of concern, the ministry had been trying to increase the number of ICU beds across hospitals in the parallel healthcare system.
“And we did increase, on a phased basis, by reallocating resources and adding resources, the number of ICU beds by 25 per cent, and the Minister indicated this on Saturday.
“Over the weekend, we again increased capacity to manage the increased demand for beds, but this (morning), the demand has exceeded the supply and this is a factor that Dr Trotman and myself repeatedly warned the population about,” she said.
Abdool-Richards outlined that at the Couva Hospital, all 22 ICU beds were currently occupied.
She said 21 of the 22 Covid-19 patients there were unvaccinated.
At the Arima General Hospital, all ten ICU beds were occupied on Sunday and based on demand, an additional two beds were brought on stream.
She said all 12 patients in the Intensive Care Unit at that hospital are not fully vaccinated.
“At the Augustus Long Hospital, there are currently ten operationalised or fully staffed beds for ICU patients, nine out of ten are occupied and eight out of nine of those persons are not fully vaccinated,” she reported.
“At the Point Fortin Hospital, four out of four beds are currently occupied… 100 per cent ICU occupancy and no patients fully vaccinated.
“At the St James Medical Complex, four out of four beds for Covid-19 patients in the ICU are occupied; four out of four patients not fully vaccinated,” she said, adding that a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after getting a single dose vaccine.