#TurksandCaicos, March 8, 2021 – InterHealth Canada-Turks and Caicos Islands Hospital in partnership with the Turks and Caicos Islands Government, continues to monitor and manage various critical resources that can affect the hospital’s capacity during the COVID-19 national response. These include the availability of hospital beds, personal protective equipment (PPE), human resources, and oxygen.
The installation of an oxygen generator system at the Turks and Caicos Islands Hospital is scheduled to commence this week. The project seeks to provide the hospital with the equipment to independently produce medical-grade oxygen and reduce the reliance on overseas suppliers.
The system design and layout process are underway, and the overall project is expected to span 10 to 12 weeks.
A duplex MDOCS 200 VSA oxygen generation system will be installed at both the Cheshire Hall Medical Centre on Providenciales and Cockburn Town Medical Centre on Grand Turk. During the installation process, the hospital can utilize an emergency provision to rapidly install an oxygen generator module if there are supply-chain difficulties encountered with the shipment of oxygen cylinders.
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and due to the nature of the disease, the virus can affect the lungs and impair a patient’s ability to intake sufficient oxygen. Therefore, oxygen is the mainstay of clinical therapy for patients admitted with severe COVID-19 disease, and for these reasons, piped oxygen demands are naturally higher during the pandemic.
The supply and consumption rate of oxygen is actively monitored in conjunction with the patient admission and discharge trends. Oxygen supply levels can fluctuate daily based on patient care needs and the length of inpatient stay for COVID-19 patients. Oxygen cylinders are ordered on a rotation cycle, and approximately 100 or more cylinders arrive from overseas every week to bolster supply levels. Liquid oxygen cylinders are also used, which provides the health care facility with an even higher storage capacity.
The project is government-funded, and InterHealth Canada, the hospital’s private health care management company, is specifically responsible for the coordination and logistics onsite. A robust phase of quality assurance checks was completed to ensure the requisite standards and technical specifications were met before the installation contract.
Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Agriculture and Human Services, Honorable Erwin Jay Saunders, stated: “The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been working closely with TCI Hospital since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that capacity was built at the hospitals to respond to this public health emergency, being the only secondary care facilities in the TCI. A joint plan of work was undertaken and funded by the TCIG and included the uplift of additional beds at both sites, including furniture, procurement of biomedical equipment and consumables for these beds, procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), facilitating additional clinical staffing from Cuba as well as the development of a capacity to generate oxygen within the TCI for the first time.
Previously, the TCI has relied on the importation of medical-grade oxygen for use in the hospital and clinics. The oxygen generators were purchased and are in-country, and works are underway to install and commission these generators.
This initiative will be sustainable in allowing the hospitals to generate oxygen in the country during the pandemic and beyond and no longer rely on external sources. We are excited about this development and the partnership which has led to this point and look forward to the implementation of these devices as a part of the ongoing COVID-19 response.”
Chief Executive Officer at TCI Hospital, Dr. Denise Braithwaite-Tennant, stated: “This represents a tremendous achievement in our pandemic and disaster resiliency. The genesis of this project came about as a result of a task force commissioned in the early months of the pandemic.
The task force was led by PS Desiree Lewis, supported by specialist advisors from the UK and members of the hospital and team health. During the ensuing months, we conducted robust data analysis and scenario planning, and the outcomes are the hospital and system developments that are progressively being implemented by various project leads. It was also important that the oxygen generating capacity be present at both the Providenciales and Grand Turk facilities, which seek to build redundancy and resiliency. This is especially important when one considers that each facility for periods has to operate without the support of its sister facility during a disaster.
The project leads for the oxygen generator implementation are Ms. Florinda Talbot, MOH Contract Manager, and Martín Dawtry, our facilities General Manager and strongly supported by the AG Chambers. The project leads have all worked passionately with both the hospital and MOH teams to bring this new and potentially life-saving technology to the Islands and continue to do so as the contractor progresses the installation. It is through a collaborative and visionary relationship with the Turks and Caicos Islands Government that great successes are achieved for the community.”
Chief of Medical Services at TCI Hospital, Dr. Dawn Perry-Ewing, stated: “The upscaling of TCI Hospital’s capacity to deliver care to patients during this pandemic makes the nation’s healthcare system even more resilient. This project is the result of a collaboration between the TCI Government and TCI Hospital. The welcomed arrival of the generators gives our operating team a wider margin of comfort as we can consistently provide a higher standard of care to our patients.”
Contract Manager at the TCI Government Contract Management Unit, Florinda Talbot, stated: “Hospitals all over the world realize that onsite oxygen generation provides a highly reliable and economical solution for their oxygen requirement. This includes directly supplying oxygen to the hospital’s in-house supply lines, filling cylinders to provide backup or supply for over-peak demands. I am elated to see that the TCI Hospital has arrived at this stage.”
General Manager of Facilities at TCI Hospital, Martin Dawtry, stated: “This is a great partnership initiative, which allows the health care facility to generate its medical grade oxygen, not only for this current pandemic but for future resilience. We will also have the ability to produce medical-grade oxygen to fill our cylinders to support oxygen needs for community clinics across the islands. The installation works will add to our existing long list of resources implemented at TCI hospital to improve patient care during this pandemic and support additional capacity.”
Vaccine Mandate hits like a HURRICANE; Cancellations crush September prospects
#TurksandCaicos, September 9, 2021 – The Minister of Health is finding it difficult to believe that cancellations are as high as residents are claiming. In a tone deaf presentation the minister pointed to visitor arrival numbers at the airport, the usual September slow down, hurricane hits and nefarious attempts at fearmongering as the basis for his lack of faith on the figures.
“What I am saying is that when you compare to where we usually were, to where we are now, and again we are still in COVID and we’re doing better, and I am also saying that (hey) safety first, and I’m also saying that cancellations happen. Because, usually around September 6 or 8 in the Turks and Caicos, we usually get a big hurricane. So if a hurricane hit the Turks and Caicos Islands right now – God forbid, knock on wood – they would have the same level of cancellations or more. Now this was a decision, one is man-made, one is natural but it is the same result,” said Hon Jamell Robinson, TCI Minister of Health.
The minister was speaking at a Wednesday night press conference where among other things, he got on the defence about claims of cancellations and estimations on losses suffered due to a new travel entry requirement. Visitors, over the age of 16, are now required to be fully vaccinated with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, in order to be green-lighted for travel to the Turks and Caicos. Cancellations are estimated to be in the tens of thousands inclusive of resorts, airlines, tours and excursions, boutique activities and concierge services.
The Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association reports 13,000 cancellations from September to mid-November for 12 of its largest member properties including the Hartling Group, Grace Bay Resorts and Beaches Turks and Caicos. One member, said Stacy Cox, TCHTA Executive Director, reported 5k cancelled vacations.
Similar reports came from smaller business operators which suffered the trickle-down effect of the decision announced on August 12, for activation a mere three weeks later.
“It isn’t a case where anyone is discounting what may have happened in terms of their totality of their cancellations, yes, but it’s not as if them being in the business long term, they haven’t seen these types of scenarios where they have this level of passengers coming into the country because this is traditionally the time, most properties do their renovations,” Minister Robinson on Wednesday.
The minister’s comments were most suited to the larger tourism stakeholders and it demonstrated what the small and micro companies have been vocalizing since the announcement, which came on his debut as the new health minister; that he is out of touch with the wider marketplace and smaller operations.
“I have people cancelling and no one consulted the small businesses. I have lost eight jobs between September and October; that’s $20,000 gone. I have bills to pay, rent to pay and my landlord is not understanding that what happened is outside of my control. No one engaged the small business person and I wish they had.”
A business owner in North Caicos offered that the activation of the new policy was so sudden that even “if guests who had bookings in September wanted to get vaccinated, they would hardly have had the opportunity to do so. It was not thought out, it was just too sudden.”
Another entrepreneur offered the decision may have been more “appreciated if it were 90 days off.”
Several were infuriated that the consultation on the decision was so narrow; banks which “may have to extend me some late payment courtesies because I lost all of my villa reservations informed me they were not asked to consider negative repercussions for borrowers. It was a big blow.”
The Minister said his visit to the airport on September 4, which was after the new vaccine mandate policy took effect, there were 1,274 passengers on Saturday. The figure topped the best daily total in September 2019, when a slightly lesser 1,131 guests were recorded.
“The highest passenger arrivals for any day during September (2019) was 1131;so despite all the fearmongering, coming from certain quarters within the TCI, we are simply experiencing a pre-Covid slow season. No more, no less.”
However, records reflect that from September 3- October 15, 2019, Beaches Resort, which accounts for 70 per cent of visitor arrivals, was closed therefore passengers were expectantly less in number.
This year, Beaches Resort is opened with no plans to shut for the season.
In fact, we found that in 2018, while Beaches Resort remained open, 12 other major properties including Gansevoort, Point Grace, Meridian Club and Ocean Clubs were closed.
In September 2017, Turks and Caicos was scarred and debilitated by hurricanes Irma and Maria and in 2020, the pandemic and a closed Beaches Resort plunged arrival numbers and helped the TCI sink into an economic depression.
These factors are very likely among the reasons the year 2021 was proving to truthfully be a banner year for many.
With keen interest in Turks and Caicos vacations, visitors were flocking to the destination in almost pre-pandemic fashion. Pent up demand, low infection numbers, high vaccine uptake, proximity to the U.S. and the natural allure of the islands was drawing a healthy number of tourists. With that interest came more cases of Covid-19.
The PNP Administration, in its fortnightly Cabinet Meeting came to the controversial decision after reviewing a six week period where 68 percent of infections or 90 of 133 people with coronavirus were tourists.
Tourists, including vacation home owners in the Turks and Caicos would have to be fully vaccinated once over the age of 16; returning residents who were vaccinated needed to prove they were fully vaccinated prior to departure from the islands and returning residents who were unvaccinated, had to provide a negative PCR or Antigen test in order to get approve through the TCI Assured portal.
Additionally, these residents are now required to quarantine with their entire household for seven days, a test is required on day five of the return.
The Cabinet also agreed to shorten the time for negative tests, from five days to three days; this is mandatory for everyone except vaccinated returning residents.
“This actually provides us with some breathing room, to be able to get the cases down as well as reposition our brand because it is not as if we haven’t done it in the past,” explained Minister Robinson who added, the high vaccination rate and vaccine only tourist policy are great selling points which can increase interest in the destination.
Though pressured to do so, the Minister was reticent about fingering the entity or entities he believes is guilty of “fear mongering.”
There was no information from the Minister on what Government is doing to now track if there are new bookings as a result of the vaccine mandate.
Bahamas announces detected ‘Variants of Concern’ for Public Health
#TheBahamas, September 9, 2021 – On Wednesday (September 8) the Ministry of Health received results from the FIOCRUZ Laboratory in Brazil that confirms the presence of the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
The National Reference Laboratory submitted ninety-eight (98) SARS-CoV-2 virus-positive samples to the FIOCRUZ Laboratory for genomic sequencing. The samples were collected between 6th May 2021, and 8th August, 2021, from individuals on New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, Eleuthera, Exuma and Bimini.
Genomic sequencing showed the following: Variants of Concern (VOC) Lineage Number of Recovered Sequences:
Alpha B.1.1.7 39
Delta B.1.617.2 (including sub lineages AY*) 41
Gamma P.1 1
The new sequencing results confirm that the Delta variant is the predominant variant in The Bahamas, followed by the Alpha and Gamma variants.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Alpha variant is more transmissible than the original COVID19 virus, and the Delta variant is known to be more transmissible than the Alpha variant. Consequently, all major health facilities in New Providence and Grand Bahama are experiencing increased numbers of cases, hospital admissions and deaths due to COVID-19. 2 The health care system of both the public and private sectors is now severely challenged and over-burdened, and as a result, non-COVID-19 cases requiring health care are at risk of not being able to access life-saving health care.
Given the predominance of these highly transmissible variants in the country, it is essential to seek medical care early and avoid home remedies that delay accessing medical care. Do not delay seeking medical help if you experience signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
Contact your healthcare provider or nearest public health clinic for more information. Members of the public are strongly urged to avoid gatherings of groups of more than five people, remain physically distant – at least 6ft apart – from others, wear a mask at all times, and wash your hands regularly.
Additionally, we strongly encourage all citizens and residents of The Bahamas to be vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccinations are proven to be safe. They are known to decrease the severity of illness, hospitalizations, and deaths, if infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and all its variants. To book an appointment visit vax.gov.bs or make a walk-up appointment.
Ministry of Health confirms a single case of Mu COVID-19 variant
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
- Maintain physical distancing of 6 feet between persons
- Wear face coverings in public settings (covering nose and mouth)
- Avoid mass gatherings or crowds
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or use disposable tissues
- Comply with public health measures
- Stay home where possible, especially if you are a member of the vulnerable group
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19 which include; cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, fever, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell-please stay home and contact the Health Hotlines on 232 9444 or 333 0911
- Do not visit health care facilities if you have symptoms or signs of COVID-19, call the Health Hotlines for guidance unless your symptoms are severe
- If you are under quarantine by the Public Health Team, please remain at home and comply with the guidance provided to you.
- If you are contacted by the Public Health Team as a part of contact tracing activities, please provide all of the information requested to assist them in their investigations
- Get tested-visit your community testing sites for free testing offered by the Ministry of Health
- Stay informed with the latest information from the Ministry of Health by visiting our website on https://www.gov.tc/moh/coronavirus/
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