COVID-19 and its effects upon orthopaedic surgery: The Trinidad and Tobago experience

World J Orthop. 2021 Mar 18;12(3):94-101. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v12.i3.94.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic on March 11, 2020. COVID-19 is not the first infectious disease to affect Trinidad and Tobago. The country has faced outbreaks of both Chikungunya and Zika virus in 2014 and 2016 respectively. The viral pandemic is predicted to have a significant impact upon all countries, but the healthcare services in a developing country are especially vulnerable. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago swiftly established a parallel healthcare system to isolate and treat suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19. Strick 'lockdown' orders, office closures, social distancing and face mask usage recommendation were implemented following advice from the WHO. This approach has seen Trinidad and Tobago emerge from the second wave of infections, with the most recent Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker report indicating a favourable risk of openness index for the country. The effects of the pandemic on the orthopaedic services in the public and private healthcare systems show significant differences. Constrained by shortages in personal protective equipment and inadequate testing facilities, the public system moved into emergency mode prioritizing the care of urgent and critical cases. Private healthcare driven more by economic considerations, quickly instituted widespread safety measures to ensure that the clinics remained open and elective surgery was not interrupted. Orthopaedic teaching at The University of the West Indies was quickly migrated to an online platform to facilitate both medical students and residents. The Caribbean Association of Orthopedic Surgeons through its frequent virtual meetings provided a forum for continuing education and social interaction amongst colleagues. The pandemic has disrupted our daily routines leading to unparalleled changes to our lives and livelihoods. Many of these changes will remain long after the pandemic is over, permanently transforming the practice of orthopaedics.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Orthopaedics; The Caribbean association of orthopaedic surgeons; Trinidad and Tobago; University of the West Indies.

Publication types

  • Review