BELIZE CITY, Wed. Sept. 22, 2021– On Sunday night, September 19, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Authority (KHMHA) released a statement informing the public that it might soon be unable to admit additional patients into the hospital’s COVID-19 unit, if there is not a drop in the current rate of Covid-19-related admissions. Presently, the number of persons being treated inside the unit is nearing the facility’s maximum capacity — which means the national referral hospital could be at the brink of a major crisis.
In the September 19 statement, the KHMHA noted, “The Covid ward is again almost at capacity and the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is full. We have admitted seven Covid patients today and are evaluating more patients for possible admission. This situation restricts our ability to admit additional patients, and that has been communicated to the relevant authorities at the Ministry of Health and Wellness.”
“This crisis has been recurring over the past few weeks due to the alarming Covid-19 community spread, especially in Belize City and the Belize District,” the release goes on to explain.
The ongoing community spread in Belize City, believed to be caused by the Delta variant, is increasing the number of admissions into the Covid-19 ward, and as a result the total number of patients requiring treatment at the facility, while it rises and dips a bit daily, is hovering close to the maximum number of patients who can be housed in the unit —23, which is the number of beds in the unit. Just last week, 30 persons were admitted unit the COVID-19 unit, forcing the healthcare professionals on the ground to find additional space and personnel within the hospital to treat the overspill of patients. It was reported that yesterday there were 21 infected persons being treated in the unit, and ten of those persons were listed as being in critical condition. Five of the ten had been placed on ventilators.
Nurse Casildo Bowman, the manager of the KHMH Covid-19 Unit, yesterday described to a local television news reporter what had occurred a little earlier that morning in an effort to give a snapshot of what the medical team at the KHMH is facing each day. “Today, for example, we had gotten two ventilated patients, two patients that are severely ill that needed mechanical ventilation. So, they had to be induced, they had to be put on a machine. As soon as we are finished one ventilated patient, a next patient came in, was not breathing for three days, and came in totally deteriorated. We had to rush to ventilate that person. As soon as, maybe, thirty minutes after we ventilated that patient, a next started to crash. That patient was on a high flow machine. The next progression was a high flow ventilator…. And so, as we finished that, I was told a pregnant lady having respiratory distress is outside,” she told the reporter.
According to Dr. Eric Bradley, internist and lead physician inside the COVID-19 unit, the team tries to avoid placing patients outside the unit or requiring that they wait for treatment, but he emphasized that if members of the public do not adhere to the regulations, sick patients may soon need to wait outside the unit until a space becomes available for them.
“We literally have been juggling where to put some of these patients. We try to avoid having patients outside waiting, but if we are at a critical point right now, people do not adhere to regulations, we may reach a point that unfortunately, our neighboring countries are seeing — where we don’t have space to put the patients. Where patients who come in may need to sit on a chair, may need to put a cardboard box on the ground waiting for a bed to become available,” Dr. Bradley stated during a panel discussion on a local television station.
And while the limited number of beds and physical space within the hospital will continue to be a problem as the country battles this third Covid-19 wave, the lack of human medical resources inside the hospital also presents an added difficulty that impedes the effective delivery of care for ailing patients.