St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital St Anns, Port-of-Spain.

Several weeks after it was confirmed by health officials that two wards at the St Ann’s Hospital were being used to house an overflow of COVID-19 positive patients, efforts are allegedly being made to relocate this group so the wards can be used to isolate psychiatric patients who have contracted the virus.

Chair of the Public Services Association (PSA) branch at St Ann’s, Preston George yesterday said concerns have also been raised about the dwindling number of nursing personnel

Unable to say exactly how many staff members had contracted the virus so far, as well as how many were on home quarantine – George said, “We also have kitchen staff who have been sick and wards-maids who been sent for testing after they started to display symptoms.”

On Wednesday, he said two long-stay patients from Wards 26 and 18 had to be taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital (POSGH) after they developed complications and while there, the two were screened and found to be COVID-19 positive.

George stressed, “These two patients came from wards where there was no history of the virus present. They were the first patients from their wards to be tested. At present, they are being kept at the POSGH in the COVID Unit.”

This he said has prompted fears that an outbreak is taking place within the facility’s walls among the psychiatric population.

He added, “These are patients who are accustomed to sharing cigarettes and food, bathing in the same bathroom and using the same toilet…so it is very difficult to manage COVID-19 in this environment.”

George claimed the situation “could become a disaster as COVID positive patients could be walking among each other and infecting one another.”

Adding that there were many ageable patients at St Ann’s, he added, “We have a limited amount of staff because even during the COVID, they have been leaving to go to England and other places, and we were short-staffed even before COVID.”

Indicating the staff were physically worn out even before COVID, George said, “We don’t know how long this is going to last and we want the authorities to put some measures in place to treat with the shifts, so we can get time to recover but also be in a frame of mind to deal with our charges.”

There was a recent report about a COVID outbreak at Ward 19 within recent weeks but health officials assured it had been contained.

Several calls to Chief Executive Officer, North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA), Salisha Baksh for a response went unanswered yesterday.

During the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Response Briefing, Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards said there were 20 confirmed cases of the virus at a ward at the St Ann’s hospital but said the patients were isolated and being managed.