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On the frontline – KHMH ready to fight COVID-19 and other emergencies

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Posted: Friday, April 24, 2020. 1:59 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital is the epicenter of Belize’s fight against COVID-19, and the heart of that is its Accident and Emergency Ward.

The head of that department, Doctor Renaldo Siu, and its chief nurse, Casilda Bowman (officially Unit Manager of Accident and Emergency and Manager of the Intensive and Critical Care Unit), met the press during this morning’s handover of testing booths. They expressed thanks for the donation made by the Belize City Council.

Nurse Bowman explained that the hospital tests from the moment a patient arrives. The booth given today and previously the tent under which it sits is the first point of triage and testing.

“If the patient is critically ill they go in; of course, we have a room that is identified for these types of patients. They wait for the results; if there is a positive result we have an isolation unit that is specifically for COVID patients and they will go there if they need critical care; if they can go home and self-isolate, they will do that.”

Tests can take as much as six hours depending on the condition of the patient and the backlog at Central Medical Laboratory a few hundred feet away, but concerns that the A and E staff are delaying treatment until they get back results from the lab were clarified by Doctor Siu, who said the results are important in determining further treatment of patients – on the general ward, or in the COVID isolation unit for more serious cases.

And how is the staff tackling their work? Nurse Bowman says her nurses and staff are drilled to treat each and every patient coming in as potentially a COVID-19 case until they are confirmed not to be. Everyone wears personal protective equipment (PPE) and patients are made to wear their masks inside to reduce and contain transmission.

However, A and E not only treats potential COVID-19 patients but also those involved in shootings, other violence, fire, traffic accidents and other potential issues. There have been fewer such cases coming in due to the extended state of emergency and later quarantine order according to Doctor Siu, but the hospital stands ready although the priority is limiting the spread of COVID-19. Triage includes asking questions about symptoms and so on and communication is maintained to guide patients where they can get help right away. Patients are limited to four isolated rooms where they are tested and monitored.

But Doctor Siu maintains that while COVID-19 complicates things, the Accident and Emergency Ward continues to see emergency cases and fortunately, patients are not coming in droves.

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