National Arena to be converted to field hospital

THE National Arena is to become a field hospital to house persons with mild cases of COVID-19, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced yesterday.

Cabinet has approved the makeshift hospital, which is to be completed over the next two to three weeks, and will cost the country $180 million, inclusive of protective gear for medical personnel.

The move is in line with a recommendation made by former chief medical officer, and the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) candidate for St Catherine East Central Dr Winston De La Haye, last week.

He had urged that the Government move urgently to set up field hospitals, and suggested that the National Arena could be retrofitted to house individuals who are recovering from the virus, but who no longer need to be in a medical facility. He said the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) should be charged with working out the logistics for the undertaking.

At a digital press conference yesterday, the health minister informed that the initiative was being taken in partnership with the Ministry of Sports, and would be spearheaded by the army. The facility will cater to 130 people.

The Government had said it was negotiating with hoteliers for 600 rooms for recuperating patients amidst the growing health crisis, an initiative which the Opposition said was not appropriate for such patients.

Also addressing the press conference, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie said that more than half of the current 63 cases of COVID-19 are mild or asymptomatic, and reiterated that the overwhelming majority of patients will have mild symptoms. She said that as cases increase, more persons won’t need to be hospitalised.

Dr Tufton said the clinical projection is for 1.6 million infections in a year, of which 400,000 will be seen in the public health system, and 2,000 will be serious enough for hospitalisation, and 400 high-risk.

The four additional COVID-19 patients who have moved the tally into the 60s are from Kingston and St Andrew, and are contacts of a confirmed case, also from the Corporate Area. The country now has 30 imported cases, and 22 import-related cases, while the ministry is still investigating how 11 persons were infected.

Meanwhile, the ministry has undertaken a number of public partnership agreements, to help strengthen its public health response to the crisis. Agreements have been inked with Andrews Memorial Hospital to become an extension of the Kingston Public Hospital, serving as an overflow ward for the care and management of non-COVID-19 patients.

Additionally, under an agreement with The University of the West Indies (UWI), 80 final-year medical students will man the ministry’s call centre. “Their addition to the team means that we are in a better position to respond to the needs of the people of Jamaica,” the health minister said, noting that there has been some lag in the response time to the numerous calls to the centre.

The ministry has also officially launched the public-private partnership for the care and management of persons with hypertension and diabetes who generally use public heath facilities.




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