Miller to unvaccinated: time is running out
The chief of staff of Bermuda’s hospitals system warned yesterday the public was running out of time to protect themselves from the worst effects of Covid-19 as a fresh wave of infections swept the island.
Wesley Miller, who has the most senior medical role at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, added that unimmunised people who caught the virulent Delta variant of the novel coronavirus were often hit “much worse”.
Dr Miller said: “People may feel tired about the message of getting vaccinated, but time is running out to get the protection they need with the numbers in the community rising so quickly.
“Our natural immune system, when it has learnt to recognise the virus through vaccination, can fight this coronavirus virus off faster and more effectively.
“This speed protects us from the worst symptoms of the disease.”
Dr Miller added: “The Delta variant is highly contagious, and the same pattern is being seen in Bermuda as the rest of the world – people without the protection of vaccination are frequently doing much worse.”
The news came after increased pressure on BHB services meant that staff were operating yesterday under the second-highest “disaster alert” level [see separate story]
Dr Miller said: “We also need to follow precautions, including wearing masks that cover our mouths and noses inside, keeping physically distant and following all public health guidelines and instructions.
“We must do all we can to care and protect each other through this surge and reduce the transmission. Together, we can save lives and keep each other safe."
A message sent on Monday to BHB staff said that the executive team decided that the “sustained rise in hospitalisations” warranted a move up to Disaster Alert Level 3. Level 4 is the highest.
Dr Miller said yesterday: “The rising numbers of hospitalisations and especially critical care patients is a worrying trend and we feel for our staff who are working tirelessly to care for some very unwell individuals and for all patients whose elective care has been postponed so that we can manage the surge.
The BHB stopped visits to long term care and acute care wards last week to cut traffic in the hospitals and suspended non-emergency surgery to create extra capacity for Covid-19 patients.
Dr Miller said: “We now have a separate patient flow to triage and assess Covid-19 patients in the Emergency Department using a medical tent.
“We have reached out to the local physician community to see if there is interest in assisting with the triage and assessment.”
Dr Miller added: “As the pressure from Covid-19 patients increases, more of our services are being impacted.
“While treatments such as dialysis and chemotherapy are continuing, non-urgent appointments with medical consultants or allied health staff, such as physiotherapy, are being postponed to keep the numbers of people coming and out of the hospital down.
“Urgent or emergency consultations and appointments are continuing at this time if necessary. Where possible, we will use telemedicine.”
But Dr Miller warned: "While we can increase our critical care bed count to 30, and increase our acute bed space by about 50, this is a peak number based on physical space and supplies.
“To sustain it for any length of time would cause burn out and exhaustion for our staff.
“We are still dealing with medical emergencies, from strokes, heart attacks and accidents, so managing the Covid-19 surge as well as providing care to people who have non-Covid-19 care needs adds significantly to the pressure we are under.”
Dr Miller said: “We should stress that while there is a high number of Covid-19 patients needing hospital care right now, many people can manage at home.
“People who suspect or know they have Covid-19 symptoms can use the BHB’s Covid-19 Symptom Checklist on the BHB’s and Government’s websites to work out their risk, and whether they need medical attention.”
He added that anyone with mild symptoms could phone their GP for advice.
Dr Miller said if people had “very serious” signs of Covid-19 and needed emergency treatment, they should call 239-1301 before they went to the hospital.
He added: “Covid-19 patients who need hospital or emergency care will be discharged as soon as they can manage their symptoms at home. They do not need a negative test before they are discharged.”