Companies closing on suspected cases creates strain on maximised Healthcare resources

Operators of businesses are being advised that it is unnecessary and counterproductive to shut down their operations and send their entire staff to be tested each time they learn of a confirmed positive or suspected case of COVID-19 among their employees.

This practice, said Chief Medical Officer, Dr Kenneth George, has resulted in unnecessary pressure on testing centres and personnel at the Best-dos Santos Public Health Lab, often thwarting their effort to return results within the promised 24 to 48 hours.

Protocols for testing have been worked out based on scientific analysis, Dr George explained, with priority being given to primary contacts. Consequently, if there is a confirmed or suspected case, management of the organisation is advised to call the medical officer of health at the polyclinic in their catchment area, who will offer guidance based on the peculiarities of the business, rather than applying one approach to all businesses or circumstances.

“If a company representative is unable to reach the medical officer at their polyclinic, or if it is after hours or a weekend, then they can feel free to call me at 836-3513, or Dr Arthur Phillips at 836-3533,” Dr George said.

The point here is that we will be in a position to do a risk assessment and offer you guidance that could avoid the dislocation of a complete closure and the unnecessary subjecting of your staff to COVID testing.”

The CMO, however, advised managers that before they make that call, they should ensure they have a list of all employees who work closely together, including their addresses, telephone numbers and other personal data such as identification numbers, to facilitate contact tracing.

Dr George added: “Employees who arrive at work with symptoms or who become ill during the day should report to their supervisors. The employee should be advised to have an assessment done by a healthcare provider, and in the case of flu-like symptoms, a COVID-19 test is required.

Those who become sick while away from work should inform the supervisor and stay
away from work until cleared by a healthcare provider. Healthcare providers would
normally provide documentation in support of their return to work

The Ministry of Labour, Social Partnership Relations and the Third Sector, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, has created a Workplace Guidance Protocol document that is to be discussed with members of the Social Partnership on Monday at 2.30 p.m.

In another major development, and as part of Government’s stepped-up preparation to deal with the projected rise in positive cases in the coming weeks, contractors today handed over to Isolation Facilities Manager, Dr Corey Forde, a new Intensive Care Unit at Harrison Point, St. Lucy, after just a week and a half of work. It began receiving seriously ill patients today.

“This means that we have now added 42 ICU beds to the 38 we had previously,” Dr Forde explained. “This is a game-changer — I am not exaggerating. This is perhaps the best money we have spent on treating COVID patients because we can pipe oxygen directly to the beds from the machine that creates it. This is significant.”

In the meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Wellness is in the process of standing up two more schools, one secondary and one primary to add to Blackman and Gollop Primary, Darryl Jordan Secondary and Queen’s College, which are currently being used for tertiary isolation of asymptomatic confirmed COVID cases.

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