BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
HEALTH experts have warned of a continued surge in Covid-19 cases in the country during the coming weeks and called on government to introduce and equip new decentralised treatment centres around the country.
Zimbabwe currently has a few Covid 19 dedicated treatment centres located in big cities and towns and also at big provincial and district hospitals only. This has left a huge number of people requiring hospital attention unable to access the facilities.
The country is experiencing a steep rise in daily new infections as well as deaths, with reports that major health institutions are no longer taking new Covid-19 patients due to shortage of bedding facilities. Several patients have reportedly died at hospitals before being attended.
As of yesterday, the country had 18 765 cases and 446 deaths, with most of the infections and deaths recorded last week. Most of those who died had initially tested negative to the virus, adding to the mystery surrounding the virus.
Cletos Masiya, spokesperson of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association (MDPPZA), said home-based care management was commonly becoming the desperate measure being taken by relatives who could just not let their beloved ones die while they watched.
He said patients were dying before being admitted and some were opting to call their doctors for management at their homes.
“Government is urged to decentralise Covid-19 management from designated centres and set up facilities across the entire county,” he said.
“Government should consider opening up idle medical facilities in other peripheral areas which have not been overwhelmed by coronavirus patients to decongest the full urban facilities.”
Masiya urged government to consider opening up stadia and setting up facilities for possible admission of new patients so that those who are positive of the virus are isolated at government-controlled health institutions, not at home.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara said there were isolation beds available across the country in some less populated areas, but intensive care unit (ICU) beds were limited and most patients were failing to access them.
“ICU facilities are mainly in health institutions in major cities such as Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Gweru, but hospitals in provincial towns have not been equipped with the same equipment,” he said.
“At private health institutions where ICU beds are available, fees are beyond the reach of majority affordability. People have resorted to calling doctors for attention at their homes. We call for government to urgently avail more ICU facilities,” said Matara.
The doctors also say because the PCR tests that were being done had clinical sensitivity ranging between 70-80% which gave false negative results, people who exhibited symptoms should be immediately treated as Covid-19 positive .
“There is not much difference between the new variant and the old one in terms of disease progression,” Matara said.
“Treatment for the new variant is not different from the old one; neither are there any differences in the symptoms. What is different is the volume of people who are being affected. This new strain is more infective than the old one, hence government should scale up its preventive and precautionary measures.”
He said more nurses were testing positive and succumbing to the new Covid-19 variant because they don’t have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) although they were frontline workers.
Nurses at some of Zimbabwe’s public hospitals went on strike on Thursday demanding PPE to enable them to do their job safely.