Thursday 4 June, 2020

With only 35 ventilators locally, Tufton appeals for social distancing

Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie. (file photo)

Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie. (file photo)

With Jamaica having only 35 ventilators in its public hospitals, and additional equipment not expected in the island for several weeks, the Minister of Health and Wellness is appealing to Jamaicans to practise social distancing and other recommended measures to stop the coronavirus spread.

The country has 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as at April 1, with several test results pending. Confirmed cases have been confirmed in all but three parishes.

Dr Christopher Tufton made the appeal during a press conference at the ministry’s New Kingston offices on Wednesday, with Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, revealing the number of ventilators available for use by health professionals locally.

The CMO recently said some 40 ventilators have been ordered, but the life-saving equipment isn't expected in the island before May.

Ventilators are used to literally force air into patients’ lungs, as many of the critically ill COVID-19 patients, especially those afflicted with pneumonia, have difficulty breathing. However, the life-saving devices are in short supply worldwide, as the demand is far outstripping supply in the midst of the unfolding pandemic.

While Jamaica has a few dozen ventilators and will still be short of at least 100 when the 40 are delivered, places like New York have placed orders for thousands of the machines.

And in Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the respiratory virus, doctors have had to make decisions as to which patients to keep alive because of the lack of ventilators.

With 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far, Jamaica is said to be nowhere near its peak, and Bisasor-McKenzie said there is currently no patient in intensive care. However, hospitals locally are collectively bracing for an increase in COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks.

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