With concerns of an increase in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and hospitalization in Jamaica, the first of four field hospitals being established to provide some 152 additional bed spaces to facilitate the treatment of COVID-19 patients was commissioned into service on Friday. The new field hospital which has capacity for 70 beds is installed at the National Chest Hospital, St. Andrew.
This aid to Jamaica is from the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), headquartered in Doral.
United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia and Faller, Commander of SOUTHCOM, officially handed over the large mobile field hospital, valued at approximately US$753,000 to the government and people of Jamaica on Friday. Faller arrived in Kingston last Thursday for the occasion.
The hospital which was purchased by SOUTHCOM with humanitarian funds, will add to Jamaica’s already 350 COVID-19 hospital bed capacity.
Faller who visited Jamaica, Haiti and Dominican Republic in November last year for a tour told the Miami Herald that, “I’m very proud that we were able to, from a question just a couple of months ago, respond, find the source of the resources to procure it, find a vendor in the United States, put it all together and package it.”
The request for a temporary hospital came in July from Jamaican Defense Force leader Lt. Gen. Rocky Ricardo Meade, whom Faller stated that he holds in high regard.
On Friday, Jamaica reported 135 new COVID-19 cases bringing the tally to 5,723 positive cases out of 70,406 test samples conducted since the pandemic commenced on the island in March this year.
Two new deaths reported for an accumulated total of 80 deaths from the coronavirus disease while 1,496 persons have recovered. The Ministry of Health also reported that 119 persons are hospitalized, 44 are moderately ill and 7 in critical condition as of Friday.
Jamaica is classified with community transmission of the virus. “By the very nature of community transmission it means the virus could affect anyone, anywhere at any particular point in time,” Minister of Health and Wellness Christopher Tufton said this week. “It means that we must always assume that the person we’re interacting with could potentially be a carrier of the virus.”
The new hospital is expected to deal with any demands. “It does come with some equipment. We will add some additional equipment and of course the personnel to man that facility,” Tufton said.
The Health Minister also states that a second 40-bed tent hospital is also currently being negotiated with a Canadian company with the support of the Canadian government. “We hope to have the arrival of that facility in short order” Tufton said.
The government of Jamaica is also planning to build two additional 36-bed hospital facilities for persons who require hospital care for COVID-19.
SOUTHCOM has already made similar donations to the Dominican Republic, which leads the Caribbean with the most COVID-19 infections reported by one country.
The U.S. government has thus far provided Jamaica with $2 million in foreign assistance funding which includes handheld thermometers and patient beds to support the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.