~ All ICU beds, ventilators in use by non-COVID-19 patients ~
PHILIPSBURG--Dutch St. Maarten’s confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 cases almost tripled on Tuesday with sixteen confirmed cases and with the first COVID-19 death recorded.
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs said in a briefing late Tuesday evening that the person who died on Tuesday was a suspected case who was under self-isolation at home. No more details were provided on the individual who passed away, as she said additional information was not yet available.
News of the hike in confirmed cases comes amidst revelations that the only three Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) and hospital’s only two ventilators are already occupied by non-COVID-19 patients.
In explaining the figures, Jacobs said that of the 19 pending cases that had been recorded up to Monday, 10 were confirmed as positive, bringing the official numbers to 16.
Up to last evening, 288 persons were under quarantine and being monitored. She said the latter figure is being lowered daily as persons are reaching their 14 days in quarantine and are being “released” from the restriction.
The number of persons in self-isolation stands at 103. The latter is persons who have developed symptoms. A total of 58 persons have been tested, of whom 16 are positive, 36 are negative. The results of six tests are still pending. She said there are no details on whether those who tested positive are among the six persons admitted to SMMC over the past three to four days. More details on this are expected today, Wednesday, during a press briefing.
The first six cases “are all now back at home,” including those who had been hospitalised and expected to recover. She wished families gripped by the virus and the family of the deceased much strength moving forward.
Jacobs explained that SMMC has expanded its capacity and has made six new spaces available, and is now at its capacity with patients who are either suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. She will provide more clarity on this today.
“While we continue to work with SMMC to secure more spaces for isolation units of COVID-19 patients who need hospitalisation and expect that we will be able to handle more patients with the promised assistance, we must face what our reality is today,” Jacobs said.
The Netherlands indicated during today’s Ministerial Consultation on health and COVID-19 response discussions that it is able to provide 42 ICU beds as well as personnel and equipment for the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. Jacobs said that by the end of this meeting no consensus could be reached on how this aid would be divided among the islands and countries – St. Maarten, Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius.
After “much discussion” with partners in Curaçao and Statia, St. Maarten was able to secure six ICU beds and the necessary support, including ventilators, equipment and personnel. The proposal of the additional six beds will also include servicing Saba and Statia. St. Maarten believes it requires more than this.
She said St. Maarten already serves as an overflow for patients from Saba and Statia and “with the limited capacity at maximum, if there is a situation in St. Eustatius right now, while completely willing, we simply would not have the capacity to be able to assist. That is simply our reality,” she made clear.
Government expects the ICU beds and support to be delivered to the country by mid-April.
Jacobs said that with solidarity amongst countries of the Kingdom and islands, it still stands that assistance will be provided amongst each other in times of need “as long as our own situation is not critical.”
She stressed that St. Maarten’s situation is currently critical where capacity is concerned. “Even with six ICU beds, this is not sufficient seeing that we have 16 positive cases.”
Despite the difficulties St. Maarten is experiencing securing additional support in the Kingdom, the country continues to upscale its capacities by setting up a pavilion at SMMC to hold at least 10 to 20 COVID-19 confirmed and suspected cases who are in need of medium and temporary care. This is expected to be finalised by the end of this week.
St. Maarten is a country in the Dutch Kingdom and as such cannot obtain funds from “other places” without permission from the Dutch government. If St. Maarten seeks funds from other sources or if it requires loans, permission of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT and the Kingdom Council of Ministers would be required.
“The Netherlands has made it known in no uncertain terms that they are also in a crisis and all of us collectively and individually … have to somehow make do with what we have. We must make the best of this situation and we will, because we are a resilient people,” she said.
In updating on the request for military assistance made 11 days ago, Jacobs said no answer has been received from the Dutch government, as this is still being discussed.
In addition to military assistance, St. Maarten has requested assistance in the form of medical supplies, personnel and ventilators. This request is being handled and assistance will be provided.