Ventilation has not had much impact on the survival chances of the nation’s COVID-19 patients for whom ventilation became necessary, says Dr. Charles Woods,medical director at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.
Since Sept. 8, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has registered a spike in COVID-19 cases that has claimed an additional 44 lives to take the total to 56, as of Wednesday.
Woods told a Ministry of Health press conference on Tuesday that many times, patients would tell him that they have a history ofhigh blood pressure, have had diabetes or had a blood clot 20 years ago and whether, in light of this, they should risk taking the vaccine.
“But ironically, they’re at higher risk of succumbing to COVID, as opposed to having a higher risk of developing complications from the vaccine,” Woods said.
“So it seems that the general trend of thought is a little reversed. You should, in fact, if you have any pre-existing conditions, your hope for survival depends on the vaccine as opposed to not taking it.
Woods pointed out that COVID-19 generally affects the lungs, primarily, but can also cause stress and damage to other organs.
“So if you have pre-existing conditions, then even after you recover from COVID, you can be more vulnerable to whatever pre-existing disease that you do have ongoing.
“So ideally, you need to protect yourself from contracting COVID by using the usual measures we mentioned before: social distancing, hand sanitisation, mask wearing, avoiding crowded, closed conditions such as parties and bars, and churches, etc.
“Get a lot of exercise; keep your immune system boosted. But above all, the best chance for survival during this pandemic is really to be vaccinated. So if in the event you do catch COVID, your body has the facilities available to help you fight it,” Woods said.
He said that care for COVID-19 patients is “generally supportive” and is, basically, a combination of steroids, and antibiotics.
“Oxygen ventilation is really a last resort and honestly has not really had much effect in the survival of most patients who eventually need to go on ventilation,” Woods said.
“There is no cure available for COVID. And the treatment is really supportive. So, therefore, we have to rely on prevention rather than trying to cure patients who are ill. The majority of our admitted cases, as was mentioned before, are unvaccinated. All vaccinated cases that we have had so far have survived.”
Woods said that COVID-19 has caused a lot of disruption in the services provided at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital. “Our plan essentially was to decrease traffic through the hospital to decrease the risk to both the staff and patients and also to allow for sufficient space in the hospital to continue care for patients who have contracted COVID-19.”
He said that as a result, all outpatient clinics have been discontinued.
“Clients are advised to attend district clinics and they can refer to hospital specialists directly, if necessary. We’ve discontinued elective surgery; urgent and emergency cases are still being done,” Woods said, adding that this is to reduce admissions to the hospital and increase our bed capacity, as necessary.
X-ray services have also been diverted to facilities in the health districts.
“We have extra services now available in our central district centres. So in the hospital, currently, we are only doing in-hospital X-rays; for the most part, in emergencies,” Woods said, adding that accident and emergency services continue to be provided at MCMH.
“We have had many cases of COVID in the Accident and Emergency Departments. Our patients who are admitted to the Accident and Emergency Department are screened by antigen tests. Some present with other issues and are found to be COVID positives, while others come with COVID-19 symptoms.”
He noted that adjustments have been made to hospital wards to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients who would need isolation.
This has been done at the Female Medical and Paediatric wards, in addition to the Argyle isolation facility.
“These three areas will have a capacity of about 65 beds that we have for COVID positive patients who need hospital care.”
Woods noted that relatives of COVID-19 patients are not allowed to visit them in hospital.
“We have counsellors, however, who are available, who can assist with communication between the staff on the COVID Ward and their relatives who are admitted, and who are there to provide emotional and psychological support to the family and relatives.
“Most of our admissions are within the middle age to senior range. But we have had admission from all age ranges. And, as mentioned before, that has not been limited to just the elderly. Most of the patients who have succumbed to the disease have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease,” Woods said.