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Field hospitals ‘not ruled out’

The Government could build or convert buildings to field hospitals to deal with the Covid-19 crisis if needed, the Ministry of Health has said.

A spokeswoman for the health ministry added: “Nothing is being ruled out.”

The spokeswoman said that the Government had not yet looked at which buildings could be commandeered under public health laws.

She was speaking after other countries in the grip of the coronavirus, including China, the United Kingdom and France, created temporary medical centres to deal with the high numbers of Covid-19 patients who needed hospitalisation.

Bermuda's confirmed cases of Covid-19 have more than doubled — going from seven on Wednesday to 15 yesterday and two people have been hospitalised.

David Burt, the Premier, warned: “These results and the potential trend they represent demand that we adopt a stricter approach to prevention of community transmission.”

Mr Burt said at the weekend he was confident that the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital would be able to cope with the outbreak.

He added in a live Facebook Q&A session: “The Bermuda Hospitals Board has been preparing for this for some time and I believe that we are in relatively good stead.”

Mr Burt said: “We do have the ability and capability to have remote hospitals, field hospitals. We do have other medical facilities, as stated — the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre and others, should the need arise, but that need will not arise if we all practise the necessary social distancing and keep our proper hygiene.

“That means washing your hands and all the other things which we have stated. That is what is most important and that will prevent the need or the possibility of our healthcare system being overwhelmed.”

Mr Burt said the KEMH would cope if everyone played their part and helped prevent transmission of Covid-19.

He added: “I have no intention of burying my mother this year and no intention of allowing the health system in this country to collapse or be overwhelmed.

But he said: “If we can't break the chains of transmission, then we are going to have a particular challenge.”

Mr Burt added the Government had considered whether to charter a cruise liner to be used as a hospital ship if the KEMH was in danger of being overwhelmed.

But he said: “Under an abundance of caution, it was decided that probably wasn't the best idea.”

The island's general hospital has 120 acute care beds and 9 intensive care beds, plus 48 new beds which arrived yesterday.

A BHB spokeswoman said areas in the KEMH had been identified for the new beds which gave the hospital “the ability to care for more patients if needed through the pandemic”.

The hospital has 20 ventilators, with 8 more ordered, and three clinical care tents.

A spokeswoman said the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre could not be used for the sickest patients in need of the highest level of care because the facility could not support ventilation and “more importantly, to avoid splitting critical care manpower resources”.

The hospitals board said it had a pandemic preparedness plan which was last updated in April 2019 and supported the national plan.

The BHB spokeswoman said: “Various elements of the plan are tested in life activities — even last year, when Bermuda experienced high levels of influenza.

“The difficulty with pandemic planning is that you can prepare generally, but each pandemic, each infectious disease, behaves differently so you learn more each time, but always have to adapt.”

The hospitals board's plan is reviewed on a regular basis by on-island infection control specialists and was checked by Accreditation Canada in 2019 as part of a hospital-wide accreditation process.

The health ministry spokeswoman said the Government had a public health awareness and response plan which was prepared in 2016.

The plan included sections on detection and confirmation of a public health problem, risk assessment and threat level determination, an overview of management of a public health crisis, epidemiological investigation, environmental investigation, laboratory investigation and control measures.

She added: “This 42 page document has been designed to be applicable to any and all public health events.”

She said: “The Ministry of Health's Public Health Emergency Response Team managed preparedness until the Covid Emergency Measures Organisation was established to lead Bermuda's response to the pandemic.”

The spokeswoman added that the Public Health Emergency Response Team met monthly under normal circumstances but had convened every week or daily since mid-January because of the pandemic.

To read the Government's public health awareness and response plan from 2016, click on the PDF under “Related Media”

A 2019 order for 48 new patient beds arrived at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital yesterday (Photograph supplied)

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Published March 27, 2020 at 3:36 pm (Updated March 29, 2020 at 4:41 pm)

Field hospitals ‘not ruled out’

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