COVID-19 Wreaking Havoc in Trinidad and Tobago as Hospitals near ‘tipping point’

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■ Anna Ramdass

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in Trinidad and Tobago, sending hospitals to a ‘tipping point’ of collapse and killing younger people.

This was the stark reality painted by Principal Medical Officer (PMO) Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards and epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds who provided worrying statistics on the upward trend of Covid cases at a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, yesterday.

Abdool-Richards said hospitals are being filled and the entire parallel healthcare system can collapse within ten days if the trend continues.

‘What is very worrisome about this trend at this point in time would be the increasing upward trend which demonstrates that these hospital beds are being filled and potentially can result in a collapse within seven to ten days…We are at a tipping point in terms of the hospital occupancy and the parallel system,’ she said as she appealed for caution.

Abdool-Richards said as of yesterday morning the parallel healthcare system had 260 Covid positive patients in hospital – a 48 per cent of hospital capacity – with the majority of these patients in the wards.

‘We can see than within ten days the parallel health care system will become overwhelmed if we continue at this rate… this is a significant cause for concern, we are looking at the hospitals being overwhelmed in under two weeks,’ she said.

At present, she said the parallel health care system has a maximum capacity of 542 beds across seven hospitals that can manage ill Covid- 19 patients.

She said 14 per cent of all new cases are admitted – meaning that 14 out of 100 persons Covid positive need to be admitted to hospital daily.

Abdool-Richards said the seven day rolling average is up to 233 cases and over the past week there were increased admissions.

She added the number of persons being admitted to the hospital far exceeds the number of persons that are being discharged.

Abdool-Richards said on Sunday there was a net increase of patients of approximately 45 patients in hospital and on Monday another 31.

She noted that patients do not just require a bed but care comprises of nurses, doctors, consumables such as PPE, ventilators and this can strain the healthcare system.

She pointed out that the length of time a Covid patient is in the hospital may vary between three to five days for a less ill patient and up to 12 to 21 days for other cases.

Abdool-Richards warned that an overwhelming of the parallel system can impact the quality of healthcare in the main healthcare system.

She said that in the past 24 hours the Augustus Long Hospital which has a capacity for 48 patients, accepted 24 Covid patients and some ten Covid patients requiring haemodialysis were admitted to the Arima hospital.

Younger people dying

In addition to rising hospital admissions is the worrying issue of younger people dying from the virus.

Dr Avery Hinds said young people with no co-morbidities have died from the virus.

‘We are having increasing numbers of deaths in the younger age groups…we are having several that are under 60, between 50 and 60, some of them in their 40s,’ he said.

He said the figures show that are some three to four deaths a day in the March-April time span.

He said different co-morbidities are the drivers behind most deaths, with diabetes and hypertension being the most prevalent.

Hinds added that there is also an increase in the number of women dying, from 25 to 28 per cent.

He said with respect to the overall number of Covid cases, the demographics remain largely the same where the 29 to 49 age group account for the majority of people.

Hinds said at the current rate of speed of active cases the country was on track to have alarming numbers of active cases by May 22, looking at upwards of 10,000.

He said the figures show that this will cause hospital capacity to be exceeded.

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