Cayman’s medical fraternity is ready for a potential increase in cases of COVID-19, should that situation arise as a result of opening Cayman’s borders.
Speaking on an ‘Ask the Experts’ panel hosted by the Cayman Compass on Monday, 20 Sept., eight doctors from clinics and hospitals across Cayman discussed the mechanisms in place for Cayman to handle an increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in the jurisdiction.
There was consensus that physicians and healthcare facilities have been working since the pandemic began to prepare to tackle penetration of the virus in the community, but people should still do their part to protect themselves via vaccination and other preventative measures.
“We, as a healthcare community, are standing by to deal with rising COVID and I think we, as a panel, agree that we think we can handle an opening of the island,” Dr. Yaron Rado, chief radiologist at Doctors Hospital, stated, when the topic of border reopening was raised by a viewer-submitted question to the panel.
He added that any action on border reopening would be “very political” and “not a medical decision,” but that the onus is on doctors to “show the path of how to do the best therapy”.
“Our job is to deal with what is being delivered to us and to guide the politicians to do the right thing, depending on into which port they want to sail, then we can tell them how to set the sails,” he explained.
Systems, collaboration and up-scaling
Dr. Nyali Taylor, vascular surgeon at Seven Mile Medical Clinic, added that doctors are better equipped now to deal with the virus, having built capacity and resources since the outbreak of the pandemic.
She added they have “systems” in place that will allow them to mobilise as a medical community to tackle potential COVID cases.
“Many of us were part of the [national COVID] task force initially, that had different subsections designed to really look at the medical system, not just at any one hospital, not just any one clinic, but really looking at the system,” she said.
“We’re talking about how can a system be mobilised to address a changing, and evolving situation? That was what was scary to me the first time because we had nothing. And from nothing, I have to give kudos to Dr. (John) Lee and to the (Health Services Authority) and everybody involved, to build that system,” Taylor said.
She added that structures and strategies put in place would allow for expansion, in order to “receive, to treat, to support, to do the things that are necessary in order for us to manage and handle what comes”.
However, she cautioned that “every system has a [breaking] point; we can only stretch so far”.
Dr. Joseph Davis, fertility specialist at Cayman Fertility Centre, added that the “interconnectedness” of medical providers in Cayman positioned the jurisdiction uniquely to be ready to ramp up and “address a sudden change”.
“We’re very fortunate in the Cayman Islands to have a lot of excellent physicians and we can pivot quickly and I think that is going to be helpful when the borders do reopen,” he suggested.
‘Test us, we are ready’
Building upon this, Dr. Sook Yin, a GP at Seven Mile Medical Clinic, stated that physicians had “banded together” in the early days of the pandemic in March 2020, in order to ensure the HSA or Health City Cayman Islands didn’t become overburdened.
“The second time around, we are more than prepared, with the capacity now to do FaceTime, tele-consult, in privacy. We have all the perspectives of practising social distancing, so we, as the general medical community here, are better prepared than ever before. So if next we open up and have surges of cases, we know now what to do,” she asserted.
She encouraged the government to consider taking “a step forward: test us and see. I think we are prepared”.
Dr. Archita Joshi-Bhat, from Health City as well as the infection control and COVID-19 advisory chair, agreed that the healthcare system is “better prepared than… one-and-a-half years ago”.
However, she stressed that the community must still play its part and remain vigilant to ensure physicians and resources do not become overstretched.
“I still would want… for the community to be cognisant of the fact if we do not continue to practise safe social measures or start behaving irrationally, there could still be a surge of cases. We still have more than 20% of the population not vaccinated,” she said.
“We are ready, but we do not want people to be so relaxed that they do not follow what they should in terms of preventative measures in the society: social distancing where relevant, wearing masks, where relevant, I think should still be an important component,” she added.
Warning that physicians still needed to be able to “deliver our services to people coming to the hospital with non-COVID-related problems”, she cautioned, “We don’t want to be pushed to the brink.”
She asked for the community to behave responsibly, reiterating again that “we are prepared for taking new cases, when the situation arises”.