There is growing concern among Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) about their potential COVID-19 exposure to them and patients after a colleague tested positive for the dreaded virus, Barbados TODAY has learned.
All paramedics of the Emergency Ambulance Service were tested for COVID-19 on Saturday and Sunday as a precautionary measure, but only those believed to have been in primary contact with the infected EMT have been advised to quarantine pending the results of the first round of testing.
Senator Dr Jerome Walcott, Chair of Cabinet’s COVID-19 sub-committee, acknowledged this evening in a national update that several hospital staff and patients have been tested for COVID-19, but said he was confident that hospital officials could properly manage the situation.
A source within the EMT Department confirmed that a colleague tested positive after recently spending time with an infected prison officer.
In addition to concern about close relatives, some of the 66 EMTs have expressed concern about the possibility of potentially exposing vulnerable patients to COVID-19.
“There is a general concern, but we are being told from the relevant authorities that there’s nothing to be concerned about and I suppose they believe that if this gets out and people know that there is COVID in the ambulance service, perhaps nobody will want to get into the ambulances,” a source told Barbados TODAY.
“There are people who are generally ill who need to come to hospital… but in the same light, I think we ought to be treated like everybody else, because you don’t want to cause any further spread until the results come back. The good news is that nobody is sick and everybody is wearing masks and trying to keep a distance.”
But despite the concerns, the EMT department has provided “more than enough” Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), said the health care worker who also expressed satisfaction with numerous changes implemented at the Accident and Emergency Department to protect patients and staff.
During Monday’s evening’s address to the nation, Prime Minister Mia Mottley noted that “one or two persons” at the QEH may have been affected by the ongoing outbreak, and stressed that although the intention is to keep COVID out of the hospital, there were no guarantees.
Senator Walcott meanwhile named eight affected departments, and as he attempted to skim through the latest QEH reports, acknowledging that some members of staff have tested.
Walcott disclosed that two nurses from the Medical Intensive Care Unit who had attended a Boxing Day bus crawl were tested for the viral illness along with 36 others attached to the unit, including doctors and nurses.
Two nurses who work in the now closed Respiratory Unit have also been tested and are awaiting results while doctors and nurses associated with Ward B-14 have been tested as a precautionary measure- since one person attended a bus crawl.
here was no mention of the EMT department, and based on his report, all staff and patients have so far tested negative.
“We have certainly done very well over the course of the year in keeping COVID out of the QEH, and in this case, unfortunately, one or two persons went on this bus crawl,” said the senator.
“We also set up a unit at the Enmore Centre initially and this is still available for persons who require surgery or in [the most recent]case obstetric treatment.
“The QEH has set up a whole process as it relates to how persons who have issues can relate and as it relates to COVID, it’s about risk assessment and risk management and everyone will not have the same level of risk. It has to do with exposure and contact.”
When contacted QEH Executive Director Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland was engaged in a meeting and promised to provide a report on the concerns raised. She said information on any additional concerns could be obtained from the hospital’s communications specialist. However, up to publication time, no response to an email sent to that official had been received.