MoH confirms 12th death this month, NCRHA CEO clears air after call for his resignation

EPL Infrafred Sauna

The Ministry of Health recorded another death today, with the patient described as ‘an elderly male with co-morbidities’. Trinidad and Tobago has recorded 34 Covid-19 related deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic, with 21 fatalities in the last two weeks and 12 this month so far.

There were four positives this morning and another16 this evening, which took the total figure to 2,250 since March from 22,119 unique patient test. At present, there  are 1,492 active cases of the novel coronavirus in the country.

Photo: Medical staff wheel away a Covid-19 patient.

Trinidad and Tobago vs Covid-19 (in numbers)

Local infections of Covid-19 in first wave (27 March to 26 April)

  • 50 cases in 31 days.

Local infections of Covid-19 in second wave (20 July to 10 August)

  • 129 cases in 22 days.

Local infections of Covid-19 since Election Day (11 August to 6 September)

  • 1,888 cases in 27 days.

North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) CEO Davlin Thomas was called to defend his own stewardship during the pandemic, as Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) president Idi Stuart demanded his resignation on Friday.

Photo: North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) CEO Davlin Thomas (front left) poses with staff at the Caura Hospital.
(Courtesy NCRHA)

Stuart, during a Facebook live stream, claimed the NCRHA has faced dozens of resignations from nurses over the last month and the Couva Hospital’s six Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are full, with the majority of deceased patients not making it into the ICU or the High Dependency Unit (HDU) ‘due to bed and human resource shortages’.

Stuart further suggested that nurses loaned to NCRHA from other RHA’s did not want to return because they felt ‘overworked and under-appreciated’, while the CRT machine for dialysis was ‘posing problems’ and hospital issued scrubs were in short supply.

However, the NCRHA CEO disputed what he described as ‘reckless, irresponsible and untrue assertions’ by the TTRN president and insisted there was no staff shortage or lack of know-how, space or equipment at the Couva Hospital.

Thomas confirmed the resignation of Couva’s General Manager Nursing Services (GMNS), along with 21 nurses hired ‘under the UNDP IDB arrangement’, which he said were ‘due to geographical location issues’—three were from Tobago.

He said the GMNS requested to leave on two previous occasions and was suitably replaced, after ‘health concerns and the inherent related pressures of working in a Covid-19 environment’.

Photo: Trinidad nurses protest for improved conditions.
(via TTRN)

The CEO said ‘nurses generally work four intense hours at a time in the Hot Zone’ while staff are ‘directly monitored by a team of psychiatric and psychological support’.

Although 21 nurses have gone, Thomas said the NCRHA hired ‘at least 100 new nurses to address the needs of the Covid-19 step down facilities’.

“The investment of the NCRHA in its staff is intensive and deliberate to get the country past its current situation,” stated Thomas. “Towards this intent, 747 nurses were trained in a two day boot-camp in critical care preparation for a worst case scenario. Prior to this, there was in-house ICU training from March through July, which began with 37 nurses—as the NCHRA felt it necessary to prepare for additional inherent ICU support given the disposition of the Covid 19 disease.

“The Ministry of Health also simultaneously trained a further 46 NCHRA nurses in critical care.”

Thomas insisted Stuart’s claim that patients were unable to be admitted to ICU was ‘unfounded’.

Photo: Infection Prevention Control (IPC) nurses in customised donning area.
(Courtesy NCRHA)

“The ICU at the Paediatric tower of the Couva Hospital Medical Facility (CHMF) is filled,” said Thomas. “However, there is an additional capacity at the Arima General Hospital (currently treating ICU patients) and the adult tower of the CHMF (currently treating ICU patients). The HDU also has the inherent capacity to provide ICU care if required.

“[…] ICU staff were always utilised from the other facilities to deal with any HR shortages and the majority of patients did in fact die in ICU.”

Thomas also defended the NCRHA’s distribution of scrubs and PPE (personal protective equipment).

“There is an appropriate supply of scrubs and other PPEs that are distributed within strict controls to ensure wastage and pilferage does not occur,” said Thomas. “There has been no hospital transmission of the disease to staff. Our materials management is robust.”

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