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BHB says it is ready for surge in Covid patients

King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Senior managers at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital say they are prepared for a surge in Covid-19 cases - after 18 patients were admitted over the weekend.

And the Bermuda Hospitals Board last night urged families to “take their loved ones home for discharge today” to assure hospital space for people requiring care.

David Burt, the Premier, also warned on Twitter over the weekend that the increase in hospital admissions for the virus was “alarming, but not unexpected” in light of two weeks of steeply rising coronavirus infections.

Michael Richmond, chief executive of BHB, said yesterday that staff were “concerned” about the surge of admissions over the holiday weekend.

He added: “The latest reported figures highlight how quickly we have risen to 18 patients with Covid-19, four of whom are in the ICU.”

Dr Richmond emphasised that the hospital was prepared.

“We have opened up our overflow ICU already, and have opened up additional areas with beds to maximise capacity,” he said.

“We have good supplies of personal protective equipment, medications and oxygen. We are managing right now, but we need the community to play their part in ensuring hospital services can continue to manage and that care for everyone in Bermuda is not compromised.”

A BHB spokeswoman said the hospital had “prepared for a potentially catastrophic surge last year” and was “well drilled to follow our escalation plans”.

She said BHB was satisfied with its resources: critical care capacity has more than tripled from nine to 30 while acute care beds were boosted from 130 to 200, and outpatient activity was reduced.

“This means that right now we are able to cope,” the spokeswoman added.

She said “more extreme” steps would include resorting to the acute care wing lobby as well as disaster response tents.

Judy Richardson, the chief of nursing, called on families to “act now” in helping loved ones to get home once ready for discharge.

Ms Richardson said: “The pattern seen the world over is when community cases rise and stay high, hospitals can become overwhelmed very quickly.

“We are preparing internally, but we also need families to ensure their loved ones who are in hospital go home as soon as they are medically fit to do so.”

Wesley Miller, BHB’s chief of staff, said none of those admitted to hospital had been fully vaccinated.

He said data was “already showing that over 90 per cent of the people testing positive are not fully vaccinated”.

Dr Miller said the 10 per cent of people testing positive who were fully vaccinated were “not getting seriously ill and not needing hospital inpatient care”.

He added: “There is no excuse for not getting vaccinated, unless advised by your doctor.

“This is a safe and effective vaccine, properly tested, safely provided, and free for everyone over 16.”

The BHB spokeswoman said heightened restrictions, along with about a quarter of the population now being fully vaccinated, was hoped to curb numbers to “within what is manageable”.

“We have to prepare for the worst, but do everything we can to avoid it.

“If people follow public health guidelines and continue to get vaccinated this will make a difference.”

She said BHB’s steps to reduce footfall in the hospitals would also enable staff to be transferred more easily if needed.

Oxygen capacity has doubled since last year, but she said the use of PPE, which escalates as cases rise, was being monitored “closely”

The spokeswoman echoed calls for the public to heed restrictions and get vaccinated.

“We must come together and do what is needed to see our community through.

“BHB can only respond to the demand. The responsibility for the health of residents is in the hands of each one of us, and what we each decide to do will directly impact for good or ill the outcome of this surge.

“We urge everyone who can to get vaccinated, keep wearing masks, and keep physically distant from anyone not in your household.”

Anyone who is Covid-19 positive, has been asked to quarantine, or believes they may have symptoms, has been asked not to appear at the Emergency Department, but call 239-2009 or 239-1301 for advice on accessing the hospital safely.