‘Gozo COVID-19 case could have been avoided if patients had been relocated’

Updated Wednesday 8 April with news that a 92-year-old Gozitan woman died from coronavirus, the first case in Malta.

An elderly patient residing at Gozo Hospital’s ward Sant’ Anna who tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week, died on Wednesday.

It the first case in Malta, and sparked fears for the health of the rest of the patients in the ward that hosts some 80 elderly patients.

On Tuesday, Gozo Shadow Minister Chris Said told The Shift this could have been avoided if the relocation promised by Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri last month had gone ahead. The patients at Sant’ Anna that had to be moved to a separate location away from the hospital to reduce risk.

Said criticised the government and the Gozo Ministry for failing to implement a series of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus – especially in the elderly – by relocating them outside the hospital.

As Malta and Gozo registered the highest number of new cases of coronavirus in one day – 52 – Said confirmed that there was a patient in the Sant’ Anna wing at the Gozo Hospital, which is dedicated to around 80 elderly patients who reside there on a long term basis.

“People are always coming in and out of the hospital and into Sant’ Anna, so the virus could have spread more easily,” Said told The Shift.

A Gozitan 92-year-old woman who suffered from a number of complications was the first person to die after testing positive for coronavirus. Health Minister Chris Fearne made the announcement in a late press conference on Wednesday and explained that the woman had diabetes, kidney and heart disease. He offered his condolences, and that of the government, to her family.

Last month, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri announced during a press conference that the residents of Sant’ Anna would be relocated to a building close to the hospital to safeguard them from the virus.

The Gozo Hospital is one of the three state hospitals run by private company Steward Healthcare, which is being paid €70 million per year, or €188,000 per day from the Maltese government.

“It would be ideal that our elderly are not in the same building as the hospital, but rather in an isolated place close to the hospital in order to safeguard the health of the 80 elderly people in the wing, and at the same time free up beds for potential COVID-19 patients at the hospital,” the Gozo Minister had said.

Said pointed out that this relocation never took place, despite its need.

Camilleri had also promised that medical staff at the Gozo Hospital would be given accommodation. This did not yet take place either, the Shadow Minister said.

“My appeal is for the workers to be given support together with the immediate isolation of those individuals who may have contracted the virus.”

The Shift also asked Said for his reaction to the replies by Economy Minister Silvio Schembri to his parliamentary questions about when the air ambulances launched by Steward Healthcare were set to start.

“I was not satisfied at all with the responses – you can’t even call them answers,” Said replied.

He went on to say that, even though there were more urgent priorities since air ambulances would probably not be used in such cases, the situation at the hospital had actually “gone backwards” when it came to helicopter access.

Previously, there were functioning helipads in front of both Gozo Hospital and Mater Dei Hospital in Malta, but these areas had been developed into Bart’s Medical School and Sir Anthony Mamo Clinic respectively.

“This means that patients in Gozo who require urgent travel to Mater Dei would need to go in an ambulance to a helicopter at a heliport in Xewkija, then to another ambulance at St Luke’s before getting to Mater Dei,” Said explained.

Fearne and Schembri have both avoided providing any details about the start of the air ambulance service between Gozo Hospital and Mater Dei – even after Steward Healthcare announced two helicopters for the service.

 

                           
                               
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