Mandeville Hospital nurses sound alarm over COVID gear shortage
Nurses at Mandeville Regional Hospital say their fears of contracting COVID-19 have intensified because of a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) beyond isolation ward staff as coronavirus cases rise rapidly in Jamaica.
One healthcare worker believes that the general nursing staff is at equal risk of exposure.
“We have to be walking around and begging for gowns, and based on the number of cases that are coming in, every staff has to wear gown. We hear we have to wear a gown, but it is not available,” a nurse, requesting anonymity, told The Gleaner.
The nurse said that four colleagues who were exposed to patients who tested positive for COVID-19 had been sent home on quarantine at the weekend.
She also expressed concern about the unavailability of a designated isolation facility for healthcare workers.
“I really need to know from the Government how they can expose the staff and then send them home to be quarantined where they have husband, wife, children, and even parents. We are putting them (family) at risk,” she said.
But director of communication at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Stephen Davidson, said that healthcare workers have the option of either going home or staying at a state-run isolation centre.
Another nurse, who also requested anonymity out of fear of administrative sanction, said that work safety ought to be improved even if every employee did not receive PPE.
“There are cases where patients on different wards were randomly swabbed, not because they had any symptoms and not because they came in for COVID, and after they would have been discharged from the hospital, we later get the results that say they are positive,” the nurse said, adding that several healthcare workers would have been exposed.
The COVID-19 outbreak has evolved to community spread in Jamaica, with infections reaching 4,042 and deaths 46 as at Tuesday. There are 2,753 active cases, of which 186 are located in Manchester.
A 44-year-old Manchester woman with a history of hypertension and diabetes is among the two most recently recorded deaths.
A total of 101 infected people are currently in hospitals nationwide, with 23 moderately ill. Eight are critical.
Chief executive officer of Mandeville Hospital, Alwyn Miller, told The Gleaner that there are general shortages, but said that workers who are in direct contact with COVID-19 patients are prioritised.
“Everybody has been instructed to wear masks and they all wear masks and other persons on the wards have other PPE that they utilise ... . But we are not able to provide all the PPE in terms of what people feel they should have,” Miller said.
The CEO said that the hospital was guided by infection-control standards and was operating amid a global shortage in PPE because of the pandemic.
“I won’t tell you that it is easy to obtain, but we are striving to provide as best we can,” Miller said.