Transmission of COVID-19 in the community remains uncontrolled, and the demand on St Bernard’s Hospital facilities is now at an unprecedented level.

At a GHA Gold Command meeting yesterday, the decision was made to raise the GHA’s organisational posture level to ‘Black’, stopping all but critical cancer surgeries, and life and limb saving surgeries and procedures. This is a clear declaration that the hospital is working in excess of capacity as the Critical Care Units and COVID wards are close to full.

Only procedures and surgeries that are time sensitive and absolutely must be performed, will be performed, as the risk of delaying these procedures fully outweighs the risk of bringing patients in to a hospital where COVID infection levels are so high.

At the same time, hospital departments are reacting to the demands by being reconfigured and repurposed where possible. For example, the Senior Management Team under the guidance of the Director of Nursing Services, have redesigned the former Lewis Stagnetto Rehabilitation department as a step down facility for patients who are clinically considered low acuity but who may not yet be quite ready to go home.

Dr Krishna Rawal, Medical Director, said: “At all times we must be responsive to the threat on GHA services due to extremely high levels of viral infection in the community, to not only protect those already in hospital, but to safeguard those who must be admitted for a procedure that may very well save their lives.

The Hon Samantha Sacramento, Minister for Health, said: “This is such a difficult balance between protecting patients from coming in to hospital and potentially contracting COVID, and providing surgeries and procedures which simply cannot wait. This is a clinical decision and one not made lightly. Escalating the readiness posture is part of the whole picture of how well the GHA responds to the demands placed on services at any given time. This posture level will remain under review. The sooner that the number of positive cases in the community and resulting positive cases requiring hospital admission can come under control, the sooner that the hospital can deescalate this posture to resume more services