COVID-19: Over 85% of positive cases housed at Diamond facility


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In an article published in today’s Sunday Stabroek titled “COVID-19 patients fear poor conditions at Diamond Isolation Unit delaying recovery” several half-truths and fallacies were repeated without evidence to support it. We are truly disappointed that instead of celebrating the very hard and dedicated work of the doctors and nurses who leave their homes and live in the unit to provide medical care and other services to these patients for weeks at a time, we are instead forced to pen a response to an article such as the one mentioned above.

The Diamond Isolation unit, since its establishment has been taking most of the confirmed COVID-19 patients, the largest number being 52 cases at one time this was as recently as yesterday afternoon. It is important to note that the country has 61 active cases. This means that more than 85% of the total positive cases in Guyana are house at the Diamond isolation unit. Further to this since its establishment more than 30 persons have recovered and been discharged from the unit thanks to the hard work of our doctors and nurses. Something the article neglected to mention.

The unit is divided into four sections, each with its own toilet and bath, and each provided with the hand soap (either in the dispensers or in bottles with dispensing tops) and toilet paper. As with admission to any other hospital facility we would have expected persons to come with any other toiletries they would need such as sanitary napkins (the ones we keep at the hospital are reserved for our pregnant patients), deodorant, shampoo, bath soaps etc., as these are not routinely supplied by the hospital. Cleaning supplies are not routinely given to the patients since the unit has three persons who come every single day (Sunday to Sunday) to clean the building and wash the dirty linens. These persons are supplied with those items.

Garbage is removed daily from the patient’s building, double bagged and sprayed with disinfectant and then completely removed from the compound by two porters. We have had instances however where the doctors had to sweep up garbage from the yard because patients chose to dump food boxes and other items over the rails instead of in the bins provided. The cleaners have complained of patients stuffing food items down the sinks and bathroom causing the water to accumulate in the showers. There was even a complaint of fecal matter being found on the floor and smeared on the walls in one of the female blocks. The cleaners also complained of finding the hand soap provided smeared on the floors in the shower.

As it relates to water supply, the Diamond hospital and the isolation unit depend on the same water supply. As you can imagine the increase demand for water would put some strain on the supply system causing some issues. As far as we know, this has happened twice and both times a plumber was promptly called in to rectify the matter, the last occasion however there was an issue where the pump developed a leak, so enough water was not getting up to the tanks. That has since been corrected.

Face masks are provided to patients three per day and upon requests. None of the medical staff at our facility reuse face masks! The safety of our medical professionals and patients is of utmost concern and as such each time a professional goes into the isolation building and comes back out he/she has to undergo a complete decontamination process, where they are sprayed with disinfectant solution from heat to toe prior to taking off the protective gear, then again after those gears are discarded, then they proceed directly to the shower where they are expected to bathe from head to toe for a minimum of 12 to 15 minutes.

In relation to the locks and security, all patients were furnished with a key to their room upon admission, however many patients would have misplaced their keys, and had to have the lock broken. Other patients would have been discharged and left with the keys to the rooms they were occupying, and those locks had to be broken as well. The hospital does not employ a carpenter as such finding someone who is willing to go into the building to repair or replace those locks is difficult. Our doctors and nurses already are functioning as garbage men and women, concierges, waiters, and waitresses it would be ridiculous to ask them to repair a broken lock. It is because of this fact that we would have advised patients to remain either inside of close to your rooms so that you can keep an eye on your personal belongings. COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease, the only persons who can safely guard their personal belongings are the patients themselves.

Finally, the issue of test results is not one that is handled by the Diamond isolation unit. The samples are taken off and sent to the National Reference lab for testing. They are the ones who process the results and then feed the information back to us regarding who can be discharged. Until we get those results in hand, we cannot discharge the patients. For them to be issued with the certificate of clearance to return to their homes and families we need to have two negative tests at least 24 hours apart in hand. Not over the phone but the actual physical result. Many patients do not understand this concept and work themselves up because of it. We have explained this over and over.

This situation is new to us all. It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. It requires tremendous effort from all involved 24/7. This includes the patients, staff, and the media. We are all in this together and it will require the assistance of all to overcome this battle. We are all responsible for how this turns out. And we must all own that responsibility and act in a manner that reflects it.

Dr. Quincy Jones
Regional Health Officer (RHO)
Demerara/Mahaica (Region Four)