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Sep 22, 2021

Inside the K.H.M.H. COVID Unit at Capacity

To date, there are more than seventeen hundred active COVID-19 cases across the nation, with Belize District experiencing community spread for the past two weeks.  More than three hundred persons have died from COVID since the onset of the pandemic. At the current rate, the health system is being overwhelmed with severe and critical COVID-19 patients. Tonight, ten COVID patients are listed as critical inside the COVID Unit at the K.H.M.H., five of them are on ventilators. News Five’s Paul Lopez paid a visit to the hospital’s COVID Unit to get a firsthand look at the situation.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

It is described as a hospital within a hospital for COVID-19 patients; twenty-one COVID-19 positive patients are currently admitted into the COVID-19 ward at the K.H.M.H., ten of them are critically ill.


Nurse Casilda Bowman, COVID Unit Manager, K.H.M.H.

Right now I have twenty-one COVID positive patients, and of that twenty-one, fifty percent of those patients which is ten are severely ill. Meaning, we have five patients on a mechanical ventilator and five patients which is high flow. These patients are in a stage where they need round-the-clock care.”


Casilda Bowman

And that is exactly the demand placed on these nurses and doctors inside this COVID Unit. Nurse Casilda Bowman oversees the operations that seek to give these patients a fighting chance against this deadly virus.


Nurse Casilda Bowman

“For today right now, from seven-thirty this morning, all my doctors, all my nurses was in PPE and still is in PPE, and nobody took a break from six-thirty this morning. That simply means that nobody ate, nobody took a break, nobody drank water, nobody get to use the bathroom.”


The situation at the COVID-19 ward is dire. Our visit with Nurse Bowman was delayed, because the moment we arrived at the ward, she was alerted that a critically ill patient needed to be placed on a ventilator.


Nurse Casilda Bowman

“Today, for example, we had gotten two ventilated patients, two patients that are severely ill that needed mechanical ventilation. So, they had to be induced, they had to be put on a machine. As soon as we are finished one ventilated patient, a next patient came in, was not breathing for three days, and came in totally deteriorated. We had to rush to ventilate that person. As soon as, maybe, thirty minutes after we ventilated that patient, a next started to crash. That patient was on a high flow machine. The next progression was a high flow ventilator. And so, literally, we were putting that patient on ventilator just before you guys came. And so, as we finished that, I was told a pregnant lady is outside having respiratory distress is outside.”


Up to the time we left the COVID Unit, no deaths were recorded for the day. But conditions can deteriorate very rapidly, and within the blink of an eye, another life can be lost to this virus. To put things into perspective, as the number of cases across the country continued to increase over the last year, more Belizeans required hospitalization and critical care. The COVID Unit started with nine beds, and by necessity, it was expanded to include fourteen additional beds, within two additional rooms, that were once designated for emergency services.


Nurse Casilda Bowman

“Bear in mind it is a lot of work. It was a lot of movement to move out our emergency department. It was a lot of work to just recognize, I mean we could have moved fast enough. The same day that moved we had to accommodate five patients that needed the room we did not have if we did not move the Emergency Department.”


The increase in COVID-19 hospitalization is not only taking a toll on the nurses and doctors. It is also causing a delay in families receiving an update about the condition of their loved ones. Bowman hopes that with a view of what is taking place inside, more Belizeans would understand the importance of getting vaccinated, and following the COVID protocols set out by the government.


Nurse Casilda Bowman

I would really want the public to understand if they see what we have to go through, what we have to see patients go through, how they are punishing, how they can’t breathe. It’s not about the vaccine. If you don’t want to take the vaccine, try to do the right thing. Try to stay home. Try to do as much as possible. My thing is taking the vaccine won’t hurt you.”


Nurse Bowman made a plea to get your loved one to the hospital as soon as they begin to experience complication breathing, because timing can be a matter of life and death.


Nurse Casilda Bowman

“The general population needs to understand, don’t worry about how much beds we have. It is not your problem. It is our problem. If you are not feeling well, if you have respiratory distress, come in so we can treat you in a timely fashion. It helps us to help you better.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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