Can Coast health facilities handle the rising cases?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Mombasa county health officers during a familiarisation tour at the Covid-19 isolation rooms at Coast General Hospital last month. Photo/PD/FILE

Reuben Mwambingu @reubenmwambingu

Since the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country, the Coast region alongside the Nairobi Metropolitan Area have been on the focus as leading hot spots in the country.

With numbers soaring in Mombasa county which is currently under partial lockdown, alongside neighbouring Kilifi and Kwale counties, the region’s level of preparedness and capacity to handle patients in case of an explosion remains a cause for worry.

Mombasa has so far recorded 61 cases. On Monday, the Ministry of Health confirmed that the cases are now spread in four out of the six sub-counties in Mombasa where Nyali is leading with 11 cases that spread from the crowded slum settlements of Maweni in Kongowea to up market areas of Nyali in Mamba and Tamarind villages.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe also announced seven new cases in Mombasa on Monday, three from Bondeni being part of contacts traced from a herbalist who succumbed to the virus and other cases in Miritini and other areas.

Ministry of Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Dr Mercy Mwangangi yesterday announced seven more new cases in Mombasa.

Governor Hassan Joho and County commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo, who co-chair the county emergency response committee on Covid-19, say the county has enhanced the capacity of Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital with additional medical equipment worth Sh64 million.

“We have also expanded service delivery spectrum in battling coronavirus to include both maternity and psychiatric cases,” said the governor.

Coast General hospital chief executive Dr Iqbal Khandwalla said initially the county started with an 18-bed isolation ward at the hospital’s private wing “which is now full”.

Khandwalla said part of the hospital has now been converted into a total Covid-19 medical centre with a 150-bed capacity.

“The hospital is now prepared with about 60 beds for handling moderate cases, 30 beds to handle critical care up to ventilator support and in this case we did not forget to set up a maternity ward because we can also get maternal cases that are Corona positive and we are going to treat them separately; we also have a separate theater in case of  Cesarean sections.

If there are surgical cases that are Covid-19 positive they are going to be handled in that theater,” said the executive.

Khandwalla added that they have also set up a centre for psychological and psychiatric patients which is separate from the main hospital.

“We have also thought of the staff who may also get infected...” he said. 

“But as we know these cases may be even more than our capacity. But this could stop the gap as we look into establishing a 300-bed capacity Covid-19 hospital at the Technical University of Mombasa,” he added.

Defy measures

But despite these efforts, Governor Joho has expressed concern over the level of irresponsibility demonstrated by residents in the county.

“It appears some people do not care at all. We tell people to wear masks but you find people wearing them on their chins and foreheads yet they know very well a mask is supposed to cover nose and mouth,” lamented Joho.

County Commissioner Kitiyo observed that despite the soaring cases, some residents are defying the issued health measures with some shaking hands and others boarding matatus packed to capacity.

“Now as you can see cases in Nairobi are slowing down and here in Mombasa they are surging,” said Kitiyo.

In Kilifi county, which has 10 positive cases, Governor Amason Kingi said they will embark on mass testing of residents next week on Sunday.

“We will start with healthcare workers and then staff at the government offices who have been interacting with the health officials.

From there we will target those who interact with many people such as the boda boda operators and traders in the markets,” said Kingi.

Minimise spread

He warned residents against celebrating the “few cases”, saying it is still too early.

“Once we carry out mass testing we will know the extent of the spread of cases in this region,”Kingi said. 

“For now the county has a population of more that 1.5 million people and those tested are only 156 and we cannot use that as yardstick to claim that Kilifi is out of danger,” he added.

In an effort to scale down the spread of coronavirus in the county, the administration has also launched two sanitiser booths, one at Kwa Jiwa market and the other at Kilifi General Hospital main gate.

“The two, each with a capacity to spray over 50 people per second, prove to be the most effective way of disinfecting major public places offering essential services such as our markets and hospitals.

As a county government, we are putting more emphasis on preventive measures to ensure we minimise the spread of this virus,” said Kingi.

The county has only four ICU beds at the Jibana isolation centre and plans are on course to install another four ICU beds a Mbuzi isolation centre.

Tana River county has a capacity to handle only two severe cases given that there are only two ventilators at the Hola Referral hospital isolation centre which has 15-bed capacity.

“However we have a 14-bed capacity at Ngao and 15 more will be set up in Bura,” said county communication director Steve Juma.

In Kwale, which is also under partial lockdown after reporting one case, Governor Salim Mvurya said they have a 21-bed capacity although sources privy to the details of the matter said the county has just 12 beds in all isolation centres.

Guard selves

Mvurya has seemingly only been active in distributing food donations as projected on his social media accounts.

On Monday, the governor took to social media to celebrate and congratulate citizens for maintaining zero cases “in yet another week gone”. 

“Another week gone without a new COVID-19 infection in our County. This is commendable to all citizens who observe hygiene regulations and heed to the advice of our public health officers... We also thank God for his protection. 

“I urge all of us to continue with the spirit of guarding ourselves from this disease,” he said.

The governor added that health practitioners would be provided with more PPEs this week.

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