With COVID cases on the rise across the country, all eyes are on the national referral hospital.  Many Belizeans are wondering what the situation is there and how the staff is coping. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was at the hospital today for the latest developments.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A surge in the number of active COVID-19 cases across the country has brought immense pressure on the resources at Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, stretching the facility to its limits.  On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Wellness reported that as many as five hundred and thirty-three persons are presently infected with the coronavirus.  This time around, women are the majority.

Dr. Eric Bradley, COVID-19 Unit, K.H.M.H.

“We have had a rise in numbers over the past couple weeks, more or less three to four weeks.  We are seeing more and more cases and we’re seeing more cases of critical cases in the unit.  As of today, we have eight patients in the COVID Unit.  Of those eight, five are critical patients, two are ventilated and three are on high-flow nasal cannula and we have three stable patients at this moment.”

The flow of critically ill patients is unremitting.  As the largest medical facility in the country, more is being done at the COVID Unit than elsewhere in the healthcare system.

Nurse Casilda Bowman, COVID-19 Unit, K.H.M.H.

“Because we’re a national referral hospital, all the cases come to us and of course the ones that are severely or critically ill.  This week has been very overwhelming for all the staff because we’ve been having continuous numbers of cases coming in, like one after the other.  I could give you as recent as of Tuesday, I think we had, we were at full capacity where the COVID Unit had at least ten patients where within one day we had gotten four patients who were really needy of interventions that would save their lives.  And so we are feeling the numbers that we are seeing on the outside, we are feeling it in the hospital as well.”

All of the patients presently hospitalized here at K.H.M.H. are yet to be inoculated.  It’s a big part of why they are bedridden and need of critical care.

Dr. Eric Bradley

“Unfortunately here, the patients that we’ve had, none of them have been fully vaccinated.  So all the cases of severe diseases that we have here admitted to the unit at this time, none of the patients have been fully vaccinated.  So that’s the importance of the vaccination.”

Reiterating that point is Nurse Casilda Bowman.  She has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 from early last year when an entire wing of the hospital had to be retrofitted to treat patients with this illness.

Nurse Casilda Bowman

“We can tell you from statistics that hundred percent of the patients that are in the COVID Unit presently are not fully vaccinated, alright, and yes, we have had cases, maybe one or two cases who were fully vaccinated but they had mild symptoms and so that’s something that we can say, “Hey, we have proof here.”

The increase in hospitalizations and the resulting drawdown on available resources, including personal protective equipment and oxygen, requires constant replenishment.

Timothy Seguro, Acting Chief Executive Officer, K.H.M.H.A.

“We normally would try and maintain at least a two week supply of whatever is needed in the actual COVID Unit, as well as the rest of the hospital.  With some supplies, we have over two months supply; however, for COVID, being that there is scarcity throughout the world, we are more or less limited to about a two-week supply and that, whenever it goes below a certain number then we’re normally tapped up by the Ministry of Health and that normally comes in a timely manner so there’s no real scarcity of supplies when we need it the most.”

Going back to Tuesday’s drama at the COVID Unit, Nurse Bowman tells us that they were forced into overdrive to make room for incoming patients.

Nurse Casilda Bowman

“That day we literally had to open our overspill area where we had to move over our patients under investigation into a different area so we can have more rooms readily available in the event that we have anymore cases coming in.  And so, we consistently have to be a in state of preparedness, state of readiness because Dr. Bradley and I and Dr. Cruz, what we have to do daily and maybe every couple hours is to reevaluate the patients that we have, see how we can move patients, shift patients around to accommodate the amount of people coming in.”

K.H.M.H. C.E.O. on COVID-19, “The end is nowhere in sight.”

The push to get the majority of Belizeans fully vaccinated is a mammoth undertaking that cannot be understated, given the present number of COVID-19 cases.  Health officials, along with medical personnel at all hospitals, including K.H.M.H., have been working overtime to stem the spread of the disease.  The K.H.M.H. staff has been and remains on the frontline since April 2020, when the first hospitalization was recorded.  Acting C.E.O. Timothy Seguro acknowledges the concerted effort of his employees.

Timothy Seguro, Acting Chief Executive Officer, K.H.M.H.A.

“It has been a long and drawn-out fight and yet still the end is nowhere in sight.  I have to say thank you from our housekeepers all the way up to our specialists, I mean our staff has been working some long hours.  We try to see how we can tweak the system to get them a little more break or rest period, however, it is just long.  And before staff gets drawn-out or worn out I would ask the public to please at least maintain the guidelines that the Ministry of Health is putting out there.  The only hope we have right now is in the vaccine and there is a constant press for our citizens to get the vaccine, I know it seems oppressive but when you come to the hospital and you see the throes of the fight, that’s when you see the importance of the vaccine because a lot of people would not need to be at this point as long as they have the vaccine.”

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