Government has given the Health Services Authority the green light to purchase 30 additional ventilator beds as Cayman continued to ready itself for a potential widespread outbreak of COVID-19.
Health Minister Dwayne Seymour made the announcement at the daily COVID-19 press briefing on Monday.
The 30 additional ventilator beds will boost the current supply on island.
“The HSA currently has 11 ventilated beds with another six due to arrive this week. Health City is also equipped with 21 ventilators and is prepared to care for COVID positive patients. Faith Hospital has one on site as well,” Seymour said.
The Health Minister lauded local efforts from the private sector working together with the HSA to establish a Respiratory Care Unit, at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
“This unit will be imperative in treating patients with respiratory issues as a result of COVID-19,” he explained.
The HSA relocated the Physiotherapy Unit at the hospital to its Smith Road Centre to create the space needed to start the new Respiratory Care Unit. It was also supported by local private health institutions.
“This truly is a community effort,” he said, adding that CTMH Doctors Hospital has donated beds which was instrumental in setting up this unit.
“Although there is tremendous responsibility for HSA at this time, this truly calls for a national response, and the private sector is actively a part of the plan,” he added.
Many private-sector doctors are part of the NEOC National Emergency Operations Centre’s Human Concerns Cluster and have been assisting with the flu clinic, as well as working in the government isolation facilities, Seymour said.
“Dr. Binoy [Chattuparambil] from Health City and other members of the private sector will join the CMO’s [Chief Medical Officer] Council to expand the HSA’s COVID Clinical Task Force,” he said.
The minister added that special attention is being devoted to Cayman’s frontline staff who are in a vulnerable role, especially those who will be working with confirmed COVID-19 patients.
Two of Cayman’s 39 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalised.
The HSA, Seymour said, has provided additional staff showers for those employees who will be working directly with COVID patients at the Respiratory Care Unit.
“All employees caring for COVID patients will be required to wear scrubs so that their personal clothes are not compromised. I’m pleased to hear of the additional steps being carried out to ensure the staff caring for these patients will be taken care of,” he said.
Accommodation has been provided for government frontline workers who may have vulnerable members in their household whom they wish to not potentially expose at the end of every day, he said.
“For those who are COVID patients who require hospital admission, these important and crucial measures that have taken place in these islands is commendable,” Seymour said.
He said the HSA has a full-time pulmonologist, Dr. Miguel Mendoza, who is vital to the care of patients in the Respiratory Care Unit.
Masks not mandatory
Seymour said residents are encouraged, if able, to wear a cloth face covering mask in a public setting where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as corner stores, supermarkets or pharmacies.
However, he said, “We are not mandating that the public wear masks at this time but understand that many will want to, and we want to make sure you do this effectively.”
Government does not have the necessary supplies to provide everyone with a mask, he added.
However, Seymour said, the public can follow recommendations “to properly make and properly sterilise cloth masks that you make at home. We will publish this guidance on our website for easy access.”
The most effective way to prevent catching COVID-19, he said, is to stay home and maintain social distancing, as masks on their own will not stop the virus’ spread.
“All other prevention measures and compliance with the regulations must be followed if we are to see this through with a good outcome,” he added.
He also dismissed claims by some in the community who are making and selling masks that their product is more effective than surgical masks.
“This is unfounded and simply untrue. Those persons should cease and desist immediately. They are causing more harm than good. In conclusion, if you choose to wear a homemade mask, you will want to continue to employ good hygiene – avoiding touching your face, washing your hands frequently, and washing the mask in soap every day,” Seymour said.