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Hospital staff remembers Covid-19 patients at candlelight vigil

On Wednesday, November 30, a candlelight vigil was held at the Couva Hospital and Multi-Training Facility for the patients who have died from Covid-19 in Trinidad and Tobago since 2020. The first Covid-19 patient died March 25, 2020.

The vigil took place in the car park of the hospital with participation by nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, administrators, security personnel, janitorial staff.

The facility was opened March 2020 at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and since then Vicar for Communications, Fr Robert Christo and the Catholic Media Services Ltd team have been ensuring free Catholic News are delivered to the Couva Hospital every Friday starting in 2020. This service ended December 1.

Fr Christo has also been giving pastoral support. He was unable to attend the vigil, but the Catholic Church was represented by Sr Angilla Corraspé OP. Archbishop Jason Gordon, accompanied by Fr Christo, blessed the hospital, and offered up prayers and support for the staff and patients, December 18, 2021.

The vigil hit close to home as staff members lost family members. One nurse, for example, lost both her brother and aunt at the hospital. “Staff lost colleagues to Covid throughout the nation; we remember them,” The Catholic News heard.

There are nurses who are receiving psychiatric and psychological counselling because they had to deal with close family members—fathers, cousins, aunts, who died at Couva.

Caring for Covid patients took an emotional toll on relatives and medical staff alike. Due to preventive measures and isolation, Covid-19 patients died alone. “It was a scary death. It was difficult for staff to deal with multiple deaths…it [the vigil] was a chance to talk about experiences, how they coped”, a nurse with more than ten years’ experience said.

Junior nursing staff got a baptism of fire dealing with Covid-19 patients. They would have been taught their role is to save lives but at Couva, they were seeing multiple deaths.

The nurse said they saw more deaths during Covid than any other time in their career. There were patients who appeared to be doing well but still died. During hospitalisation, they got familiar with patients, their families, and backgrounds.

She said the vigil was a way to bring closure to staff, “We did our best.”

The idea for the vigil came from a nurse. It was presented to management and got the greenlight. “It was a nice way to say goodbye,” The Catholic News was told.

From December 1, the Couva facility, which falls under The University of the West Indies (UWI), stopped accepting new Covid-19 patients. There were less than 20 patients warded and these were to be transferred to the Caura Hospital and Arima Hospital. The latter was decommissioned as a Covid-19 step down facility June 5.

At the middle of February, The UWI Debe campus and the National Racquet Sports Centre in Tacarigua were decommissioned as stepdown facilities. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has said the medium- to long-term plan is to treat Covid-19 in the public health care system “in the same way we treat H1N1, with dedicated sites within the normal health care system”.

The Point Fortin and Tacarigua health facilities have been decommissioned. The parallel health care system utilising select institutions was introduced March 2020 for Covid-19 treatment to avoid burdening other health facilities.