JUST IN CASE: Cabinet approves outfitting of National Arena as COVID-19 field hospital

Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry Dunstan Bryan.

Cabinet has approved the outfitting of the National Arena as a 72-bed field hospital to respond to any surge in local coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dunstan Bryan, said the decision was arrived at following a reconnaissance of the facility by the ministry, the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the management of the National Arena.

“We looked at what the dimensions and the specifications of the existing infrastructure were and we looked at the scope of work in terms of what is required for us to establish a field hospital for the National Arena,” Bryan said at a virtual meeting of the Special Select Committee of Parliament on COVID-19 on Tuesday (April 7).

The Permanent Secretary informed that the Health Ministry is in the process of finalising the design of the field hospital. “The financing is $182 million and Cabinet has asked that the lead on the implementation of this… be the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF),” he said.

The scope of work will include electrical connection for medical equipment and general support services, increase in water storage capacity from 8,000 gallons to 14,000 gallons, temporary backup power supply, temporary outdoor bathroom and shower facilities for patients, chain-link fence at the rear of the facility for security, and the acquisition of medical equipment and furniture.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie said that the field hospital will be used as an isolation facility.

“Therefore, it will be confirmed cases and at most mildly symptomatic persons. We are reserving the hospitals for the moderate to severely ill persons and, also, we would have to take into consideration, even the mildly symptomatic persons, who have several co-morbid illnesses that would put them at risk for severe illness. Those will also be prioritised to be put into the regular hospital setting,” she explained.

Meanwhile, Bryan informed that the Ministry has received approximately $2.8 billion in funding from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, of which some $2 billion has already been expended.

He noted that the remaining sum will be utilised to activate interventions over the next two to three months.

“In terms of our stock, we have nine million gloves, face masks… and we have 80,000 face shields that are to come into the island between this week and next week. We now have half a million N95 masks that [arrived] in the island yesterday (April 6), and are being cleared today for distribution,” Bryan said. The N95 masks are designed to filter out 95 per cent of small airborne particles, thereby offering protection against contamination.