QEH battles ash, prepares to handle possible rise in respiratory cases

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AvatarArticle by
Anesta HenryPublished on
April 13, 2021

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) which is still battling the COVID-19 pandemic is now fighting against volcanic ash which has led to a major cleanup at the facility.

QEH’s Executive Chairman Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland told Barbados TODAY that the hospital has been heavily impacted by the ash which Barbadians woke up to on Saturday following the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent.

She said that while staff has described it as mission impossible to keep the hospital in pristine condition while the ash is still falling, management brought on additional help to ensure the facility remains sanitary, which is necessary for patient care.

“It is extremely challenging. I am on the main corridor now where we have done extensive cleaning overnight and when I came in at 7:30 a.m., it was in pristine condition. But during the day, you can see the build up of ash. You keep having to repeat sweeping and dusting. It is like having a coat of fine cement dust across the length and breath of the hospital.

“We have had to bring in additional staff to assist with cleaning and we have also had to expand our maintenance servicing of our air condition systems because we have to ensure that the air condition isn’t bringing the dust into sensitive patient areas such as the operating theaters, labs and other specialized areas,” she said.

The Executive Chairman said that luckily, the hospital has not had to deal with a high rate of absenteeism at this time.

However, she indicated that some staff members have had difficulty making their way to work due to the build up of ash on the roads, but management quickly put alternative arrangements in place for several workers to get to and from the facility safely.

Bynoe-Sutherland noted that while the medical team has led the COVID-19 efforts, the housekeeping and engineering departments have been playing a critical role in the cleanup process.

She further explained that in preparation for any increase in respiratory cases, QEH has already conducted an audit of ventilators and all other respiratory equipment to ensure they are in good working order.

“So far, the number of asthmatics and respiratory ailments has not overwhelmed us. It has been pretty moderate and we have prepared a plan in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) room for increased access to nebulization for asthmatics should we need to do this. But it is a serious undertaking right now keeping the hospital clean in the present circumstances,” she said.

Bynoe-Sutherland noted that QEH, which closed its outpatient clinics today, will be fully operational from Tuesday to avoid further delays in people accessing care.

“We just took today to organize our response and our staffing will be adapting to make sure we have adequate numbers in place to provide for the outpatient clinics tomorrow,” she said.

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