Cornwall Regional Hospital

Derrick Harvey, Senior Medical Officer of Health at Cornwall Regional Hospital, Montego Bay, says despite a chronic shortage of medical oxygen across the island, which posed a serious challenge at the major health facility last week, the pressure on the hospital’s administration to dispense the precious resource, has been eased.

This follows reports last week that the hospital could be tethering on the brink of a crisis due to a chronic shortage of medical oxygen, which was denied by Errol Greene, Regional Director of the Western Regional Health Authority.

Speaking in an interview with the Western Mirror, Dr. Harvey says an increase in the number and frequency of medical oxygen cylinders delivered at the hospital and retrofitting of pipes that deliver oxygen had improved the situation.

“They have increased the number of cylinders which have been delivered and the times of delivery. The situation which presented last week when there was a lot of pressure to deliver oxygen has been eased somewhat.  In looking at the way we deliver oxygen to the various areas, it was coming from one section at the back and that area has been re-piped and so it has been channeled differently,” Dr. Harvey disclosed.

He cautioned, however, that the situation is still fluid as a surge in COVID -19 cases and an increase in demand for oxygen could plunge the hospital into a possible crisis.

“It depends on how many persons demand the service. If we continue to have more persons coming in who require oxygen, we may go back to a similar situation. It all depends on demand versus supply.”

Dr. Harvey was quick to point out that when the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Jamaica in March last year, there was no problem for the hospital as all the facilities which were put in place were coping quite well, however, since the last three weeks, there has been a major surge and this has created a higher demand and adjustments had to be made to meet the increase.

He said IGL, which is the principal supplier of medical oxygen, had increased the number of cylinders it delivered to the Western region and CRH was a beneficiary.

Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Horace Chang, who spoke to the issue of shortage of medical oxygen, after receiving his COVID -19 vaccine at the Type Five Health Centre Montego Bay on Monday, indicated that IGL, the sole supplier of medical oxygen on the island, had run out of cylinders, adding that a shipment, which arrived on the weekend, had eased the shortage and averted a possible crisis.


Meanwhile, Dr. Harvey further explained that while the hospital had reached its capacity for housing COVId-19 cases, work was being done to accommodate what has been a major surge in the past 3 weeks.

He says additional space was being created to house suspected cases of the respiratory disease as they cannot be accommodated in the same space as those who have already tested positive for the disease.

“The medical ward, which housed some cases of COVID-19, is now being repurposed to hold an additional 23 patients and should be completed at the weekend. There is also an expansion to the Accident and Emergency department, which should take another five beds and six chairs to house suspected cases of the viral infection. It means, therefore, that there should be 61 bed spaces to be created,” Dr. Harvey related.