JNF General Hospital Medical Chief of Staff, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson

BASSERERRE, St. Kitts — As the borders are set to reopen on October 31, hospitals across the Federation are prepared to care for people who may become severely affected from the Coronavirus, according to Medical Chief of Staff at the Joseph N. France General Hospital, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson.

Nevis Medical Officer, Dr. Judith Nisbett

“We have been preparing for this day for seven months now and at the Joseph N. France General Hospital, we have a ward that is designated for COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “We have 15 to 18 beds there. That ward has not been used since we have not had any cases.”

“All those beds are ready and available,” he said. “They all have ventilators, in fact, we have more than a sufficient supply. We hope not to get to that stage, because even around the world as we learned more about the virus, the need for ventilator support has decreased significantly, but we have the capacity to ventilate over 30 patients if we need to.”

Dr. Wilkinson noted that the staff has been trained to deal with COVID-19 patients.

“If you were to visit the Joseph N. France Hospital, you would see that the emergency room was separated into two sections,” said Dr. Wilkinson. We have a section designated for persons who have respiratory illnesses. When the borders open, if we have an increased number of persons with respiratory illnesses, they will be directed to that section where they will not mix in with the regular patients.”

Dr. Wilkinson said that even in the 11 clinics in the Federation, there are designated days when persons with respiratory illnesses will be seen.

“We have augmented our staff with more than 30 nurses and four critically care specialists from Cuba,” said Dr. Wilkinson. “They are still here with us and they will be here for a while until we have gotten over the hump and are certain that there will be no second wave of this pandemic.”

Chair of Nevis’ Covid-19 Task Force, Dr. Judy Nisbett, said that the Alexandra Hospital also stands ready when the borders reopen.

“We have been preparing for quite a while.” said Dr. Nisbett. “We have been preparing our health care workers, training them in different areas such as infection prevention and control, contact tracing, and clinical care of cases.”

Dr. Nisbett added that they have developed guidelines for clinical care of moderate and severe cases if any develop in the Federation.

Nevis has also received specialists from Cuba that have been working closely with the hospital’s staff, she said.

“Sixteen beds have been identified to be used if severe cases develop,” said Dr. Nisbett. “She added that offsite they have identified eight additional beds in a facility that was previously used as a senior citizen’s home.

Dr. Nisbett said there is also a checkpoint at the main gate of the hospital.

“If persons have any respiratory symptoms, that is the first area where they will go. They must call ahead first,” she said.

The Alexandra Hospital has11 ventilators, and has procured oxygen concentrators, nebulizers, and has increased its stock of Personal Protective Equipment for health care workers.