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Medical association president warns on diminishing bed capacity

Bahamas Medical Association President Dr. Marcus Cooper yesterday warned that if The Bahamas exceeds its COVID-19 bed capacity, health officials would be forced to start “rationing care”.

Cooper, who called into the Guardian Radio 96.9 FM talk show “The Revolution” with host Juan McCartney, said the “most conservative estimates will say that there is a one to two percent either mortality rate or severe disease rate”.

“If you estimate that, then probably shortly we will be approaching 2,000 cases; one percent of that would be 20 and two percent of that would be 40,” he said.

Cooper said there are fewer than 30 intensive care unit (ICU) beds in The Bahamas.

He said there are roughly 17 at Princess Margaret Hospital, eight at Doctors Hospital and two at the Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama. 

“So, if you take those numbers into consideration, it would only take two percent of 2,000 people to exceed our capacity of critical care beds, definitely exceed,” Cooper said.

“But you also have to take into consideration that we have people in hospital at this time that have had heart attacks, that have had strokes, that have had motor vehicle accidents that are requiring ICU and every other manner of illness that typically takes up ICU and critical care beds.”

On Monday, the Ministry of Health said 32 cases were hospitalized. 

One day later, it reported 78 hospitalizations. 

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has warned that a spike in hospitalizations could result in the collapse of The Bahamas’ public healthcare system.

Yesterday, Cooper said Minnis has to take into consideration “the potential of us reaching that one to two percent of our total number of cases that may be severe”.

“If at that time we do, considering the number of critical care beds we have, we’re going to have to start rationing care,” he said.

“We’re going to have to start making decisions based on how old you are; the likelihood that you’re going to be salvageable; if we think we’re going to be able to ride this thing by giving you supportive care, because there is no cure for COVID-19.

“And so, the technicians and the medical team that is advising the prime minister is probably looking at it from that perspective.”

He added, “We have the ability to exceed our capacity very, very easily.”

Earlier this month, Minnis said that hospital capacity would increase by 80 beds as a result of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

Cooper said yesterday he doesn’t know if the country has 80 ventilators to accompany the additional beds. 

He said The Bahamas does not have the capacity of healthcare workers to work 24 hours per day either.

“Remember now, the country is still getting sick from other things,” he said.

“We’re not only treating COVID-19. It’s a fraction of what we’re seeing at each one of these healthcare facilities.

“So, you know, we may be able to increase our capacity to hold these patients, to house them, but who’s going to take care of them?

“Physicians are already stretched. We all are.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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