QEH medical director believes community spread may be wider than figures indicate

The Accident and Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) is experiencing a surge in the number of COVID-19-infected patients who are presenting to the acute care facility “at death’s door”. In some cases, some are pronounced dead on arrival and in at least one case, already decomposing.

Director of Medical Services Dr Clyde Cave made the chilling revelations as he disclosed that trends at the country’s primary healthcare facility are pointing to community spread of much higher proportion than the daily numbers suggest.

“We have seen an increase in people being brought into the Accident and Emergency Department when they are extremely ill and the most extreme cases of that would be someone who has already ceased to breathe and there has been one instance where the obvious timing of death was sometime before that individual was brought to the Accident and Emergency Department,” Dr Cave told Barbados TODAY.

The leading physician explained that many of the gravely ill are not known to the coordinators of the home isolation system and are only identified as COVID-positive postmortem.

“Sometimes the testing is not undertaken because the person or the family makes assumptions and thinks they can isolate and self treat and we know with COVID, that unless you know what you’re looking for, deterioration can happen very quickly and if you don’t have access to the appropriate medical care, mostly oxygen and in many cases medication, then people can go on to die,” Dr Cave explained. “It is a serious disease, not something to be taken lightly,” he reiterated.

To explain the extent of the country’s community spread, the Medical Services Director revealed that a staggering 10 per cent of pregnant women receiving routine tests before delivery are being diagnosed with COVID-19.

“That’s our protocol and these are people who are just pregnant, not necessarily symptomatic, and every day we are now discovering usually at least one or two of our deliveries who are asymptomatic, but testing positive,” said Dr Cave.

“That indicates that there is a lot of asymptomatic disease out there that is going unrecognised or in some cases unacknowledged and therefore untreated.

“Ten per cent of the women in Barbados at the moment who are about to give birth are being found to be COVID-infected and if you believe that the population represents similar characteristics as the rest of the country, well you do the math,” the doctor contended.

At the latest tally, the country’s COVID-19 statistics today stood at 5,414 active cases. That figure included 391 new infections with 740 people receiving treatment in isolation facilities and more than 4600 in home isolation. The country also recorded six fatalities.

Earlier on Wednesday, Government’s COVID-19 Public Advisor David Ellis also confirmed the news that a family had dropped off their decomposing relative, who had later been identified as a positive case.

“That is the kind of behaviour that we don’t want to see and don’t want to encourage and that says a lot about the people who were involved in that particular exercise,” the recently-appointed advisor added.

Mr Ellis, who was speaking on Starcom Network’s Down to BrassTacks programme noted that another disturbing trend is the reluctance of some infected people to obey the advice of authorities instructing them to seek treatment at isolation facilities.

In worst-case scenarios, he revealed that some members of the public are being “abusive” to COVID-19 health officials, causing them to fear for their safety.

“This is something that is quite disturbing for those people who have been charged with the responsibility of transporting those individuals and I think both they and the people who have asked them to pick up those patients, are fully aware of the fact that there is great danger,” said Ellis.

He reinforced the point that persons experiencing mild symptoms are often lulled into a false sense of security, but in many cases, have become critically-ill and some have died when their condition rapidly deteriorated.

“We are in a bad situation right now. There are some people out there who seem not to appreciate it, because some of the activity that we are seeing suggests that it hasn’t penetrated their heads yet that ‘yes, this thing is really bad’,” said Ellis.

“You’ve heard the doctors say that in many instances, people are waiting too long to go for medical attention. We’ve been warning for quite some time that this situation was serious and Dr Corey Forde [Director of Isolation Facilities]  was pointing out that it was likely to get worse,” he added.

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