BHB appeals for families to free beds by taking recuperating relatives home
Hospital patients could be asked to recuperate at home to avoid bed blocking as medics braced themselves for an influx of patients, a senior doctor said yesterday.
Wesley Miller, the chief of staff at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, warned that he expected the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital to be flooded with patients, in part because of a new surge in coronavirus cases.
Dr Miller added that a satellite intensive care unit would “probably” be needed as more people became ill.
Statistics released on Monday showed that there were six Covid-19 patients in hospital, although none were in intensive care.
Dr Miller said: “We have had challenges in the past and we have some now but we also have solutions.
“We have made plans, as we did the last time, to deal with any further surge resulting in bed occupancy or the filling up of the intensive care unit.”
Dr Miller said medical staff were used to increased pressure in January and often into February because of a seasonal jump in admissions, some of them because of influenza.
He added: “We have a challenge in terms of the current bed occupancy and where we would seek assistance from the public is by asking that those who have relatives in the hospital that can possibly go home, if you were to come to collect those relatives, you would help greatly in terms of us being able to have bed space freed up.
“It will also help us in terms of the delay that we sometimes have in the emergency department where people come and they get seen and we plan to admit them but then they have to wait for a bed to become available.
Dr Miller said: “As it stands now, the intensive care unit has beds available and we’re ready and prepared.
“But in addition to that we had satellite units that were created on the previous occasion and those are ready to go if and when needed.
“And we do anticipate that we probably will, so we have the plans in place and certainly the structures are in place, so it’s just a matter of dusting off those plans and moving again.”
Dr Miller added that staffing levels at KEMH remained a concern and that there was no quick fix available.
The BHB revealed earlier this week that almost 150 of its 1,800 staff were off sick because of the coronavirus.
Dr Miller said: “We have a significant number of staff off because of Covid exposure. However, we’re still able to operate the routine clinical services and specialist services.”
But he added: “Staffing will remain a concern as it was on the previous occasion, probably more so this time because of the infectious nature of the Omicron variant.
“Also, we recognise that there isn’t any other place that we’re going to be able to get staff from in a hurry because everywhere else — the United States, Canada, the UK and elsewhere — they are also scrambling for staff as they find that some of their staff go off ill.
“We have to ask people to work overtime or reposition the way we do things.
“We have had a backlog of some elective procedures from the previous waves and so what we did throughout November and December we ramped up the numbers as much as we possibly could.”
But Dr Miller appealed to anyone who felt unwell not to be deterred from going to the KEMH for medical attention.
He said: “The hospital is open for business, the emergency department will see you and we will treat as necessary.
“We recognise the challenges in testing, so BHB has also made the effort and have plans in place now to do more testing within the hospital.
“In terms of people coming in and worrying that they will catch Covid by being in BHB, the chance of that happening at this time is very, very small and you should not let that be a consideration in keeping you away in the event of any significant illness or problem.”