The University College Hospital (UCH) has reversed its earlier decision to keep the hospital open following reports of suspected cases of COVID-19 among some of its medical doctors.
Our correspondent who visited the hospital on Wednesday observed that the outpatients (OPD) clinics including Medicine, Surgery and Children Out Patients Departments of the hospital have been shut down.
Our correspondent, however, observed that the hospital’ accident and emergency department was open and healthcare workers including doctors and nurses were seen on ground rendering services.
The hospital’s main Pharmacy Department was open but rendering only skeletal services to patients with prescriptions.
Also, essential duty workers of the hospital were also seen cleaning at intervals the frequently touched surfaces, including the handrails.
Some patients with slated appointments were seen looking confused and disappointed over the unexpected shutdown of the outpatient clinics.
One of the nurses, who declined giving her name, said she had lost count of the number of patients she had turned back.
She, however, said that shutting down the out patient departments was the best decision the hospital’s management could have made amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UCH, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo, said that the closing of the outpatient clinic became necessary to reduce the risk of a cororonavirus epidemic within the hospital community.
Otegbayo said the decision was also made due to inadequate number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the healthcare workers to limit the risk of transmission and infection.
He said that some UCH doctors were already observing self-isolation following contacts with some suspected cases.
“As I speak with you, there are some of our doctors who are on self-isolation or qaurantine because of exposure to suspected cases.
“We don’t have to wait till we start seeing positive ones before we take appropriate actions, as the CMD, I have the sole responsibility to take care of and protect our staff from unnecessary infection and I just want to be proactive.
“As you are aware the number of cases that are testing positive to COVID-19 is increasing and personally I believe in prevention rather than all these curative approaches.
“Some countries have been able to reduce the number of cases because they locked down early.
“Initially we thought we should leave the OPD open but we realise that continuing to do that in the absence of enough materials to protect all our staff including our doctors, nurses and health attendants is not the best option, and the best option will be to lock this place down,” he said.
According to the teaching hospital boss, measures have also been taken to ensure that emergency services remain open under strict compliance with preventive measure and standard infection control precautions.
“We have channels for taking care of those with emergencies and we are going to do that to the best of our abilities.
“I usually call the Accident and Emergency Department a mad house, but we have had to put in some measures to ensure that is not just the staff but also patients with emergencies are protected.
“We have a spill over tent outside our A&E with measures that everyone who comes in maintain a safe distance from one another and these measures are necessary to ensure that we all work under the best condition in order to put in our best,” he said.
Otegbayo said that the hospital was also merging its wards to reduce the number of patients on admission.
“As the chief executive of this hospital, I have the responsibility to see things for myself and I am just coming from a ward round and we have decided to close down some wards.
“We are collapsing our wards so that we reduce the number of patients on admission, those who are stable we are discharging because we need to sort out and limit the number of staff that will be exposed to any possible infection,” he said.