Having served as an isolation centre from January 3 to March 19, today the Blackman…
Through a rigorous system meant to create a COVID-free bubble at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), the institution was able to detect over 150 COVID-19 infected people who came there seeking care.
This was revealed by Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland, executive chairman of the QEH during an exclusive interview with COVID Weekly.
She was providing an update on the enormity of Government’s spending in response to the pandemic, through financial allocations to the QEH.
Much of the state’s expenditure has been on direct payments and food supplies to the country’s most vulnerable, as well as funding to businesses. But the Ministry of Health and the QEH in particular grabbed a significant portion of the millions spent in the national COVID-19 response.
Bynoe-Sutherland underscored the level of financing that this single institution demanded in order to provide a comprehensive COVID-19 action plan.
The pandemic forced the QEH to separate its Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department into two floors, splitting respiratory cases from other emergencies.
Bynoe-Sutherland told COVID Weekly: “That was difficult because people came to A&E not expecting to be confronted with testing for COVID-19. But we picked up a lot of COVID cases. Apart from community testing, the A&E was a major source of identification of COVID-19 cases.”
“At my last count, we detected about 153 cases. So that separation of respiratory and non-respiratory patients was key. Preventing people from visiting the hospital was also a difficult decision, but the restrictions we put in place were essential because we could have had a lot more people who were inadvertently in a super-spreader space, if we didn’t make that separation.”
Another initiative that also consumed some of the institution’s budget was the creation of a separate outpatient clinic to Belleville, St Michael, while changes were made to the main entrance of the hospital for better management of this area.
Among the infrastructural developments by the hospital was expenditure on the establishment of seven isolation centres.
The Enmore Clinic in Bridgetown was retrofitted, and Bynoe-Sutherland, under whose management the process fell, admitted it was contentious at the start but has since proven its worth.
“It was controversial at the time but has borne itself out to be a very visionary decision to have it available for isolation cases and to do minor surgeries and births. We have had minor surgeries and births at Enmore. We have also had some complex cases that we needed specialist support from the hospital and because we had Enmore, we were able to operationalise it, especially for some challenging paediatric cases.”
Bynoe-Sutherland revealed that the hospital’s A&E redevelopment project was also altered after the pandemic struck. It now boasts negative pressure, more isolation rooms and more indoor space has been designated for screening of patients.
She added: “The future of the hospital is in making significant use of technology and changing the culture of people to be more comfortable and conversant with doing telemedicine. In addition, we cannot survive and maintain the confidence of the people of Barbados if we do not do a better job of communication.”
At the same time, the chief hospital administrator made it clear that throughout the various projects, the institution maintained proper governance and financial practices.
“You don’t throw governance through the window just because you have a pandemic.”
“We are going to be held to account in a period outside of COVID-19, and very often, the regulators are intolerant. When we are past COVID, they are not going to remember how intense this period was. So as a board of directors, we made sure that we were adhering to good principles in getting the necessary approvals.”