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Jamaica Government Preparing More Hospital Beds For COVID-19 Patients; Seeks Private Spaces For Quarantine Subjects

Jamaica's Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton. Photo credit: Ainsworth Morris/JIS.

Jamaica Government Preparing More Hospital Beds For COVID-19 Patients; Seeks Private Spaces For Quarantine Subjects

NEW KINGSTON, Jamaica March 27, 2020 — Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, says the government continues to prepare hospital facilities to accommodate more patients, should there be an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“In terms of hospital readiness, we continue to expand on our readiness to deal with any potential increase in the numbers for the island’s critical hospitals,” he noted at a digital press conference at the Ministry’s offices in New Kingston on March 25.

Capacity is being provided at the Kingston Public Hospital, Port Antonio Hospital, Mandeville Regional Hospital, Cornwall Regional Hospital, St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, the University Hospital of the West Indies, Bustamante Children’s Hospital and National Chest Hospital.

“We are currently operating at an isolation capacity of some 150, across the island, but with the capability to accommodate up to 326 persons, should the need arise,” Dr. Tufton said.

There are 26 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Jamaica, to date, of which 17 are imported, eight are import-related, and one is still under investigation. The youngest person to test positive is a 24-year-old, while the oldest is 79 years-old.

Some 514 persons have come into the island from a country of interest since January 31. Of that number, 14 are under quarantine in a government facility and 237 are under home quarantine.

The home quarantine numbers do not include the residents of Seven and Eight Miles in Bull Bay or those in Corn Piece Settlement in Clarendon.

The Health Minister is also appealing for private property owners to come forward, as the government seeks appropriate space, to accommodate persons, who are in isolation, quarantine or recovering from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The government is seeking 600 rooms, across the four health regions, to be used as transitional houses for such persons.

Dr. Tufton said that while several offers have been proffered, in many cases, the properties are not suitable.

“Either they are too small or, in some instances, the costs are prohibitive or high, based on the private providers’ requirements. So the search continues,” he added.

He said that if property owners are unwilling to come forward, the State could trigger relevant legislation to take possession of the properties.

“We are going to have to, hopefully, collaborate and get the willingness of those players, to work with us, in the public’s interest and in the interest of all of us. At the very last resort, if we are not getting that cooperation, there is always the possibility of triggering the law, under the emergency powers that exist under these conditions, in the national interest,” he pointed out.

Dr. Tufton said that this is not the route that the government wants to take.

“That’s not what we would like to do, and there would have to be fair exchange, in terms of market value, if it were to come to that. But, at the end of the day, we have to find the right blend and the right mix, in order to deal with the cases that are likely to come from community-spread,” he noted.

Owners of hotels, with available rooms, or those that are no longer being used, are encouraged to engage in discussions with the government, regarding the availability of the rooms that will be needed for recovering patients, who have to be monitored, for up to 30 days.

The South East Regional Health Authority (Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine and St. Thomas), and the Southern Regional Health Authority (Manchester, Clarendon and St. Elizabeth), each require 200 rooms with bathrooms; while 100 rooms each are needed in the Western Regional Health Authority (Hanover, St. James, Westmoreland and Trelawny) and in the Northeast Regional Health Authority (St. Ann, Portland and St. Mary).

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