Home-based Covid-19 isolation care will help decongest hospitals

Friday, June 19th, 2020 00:00 |
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Last Wednesday, June 10, the Ministry of Health launched protocols for home-based isolation and care for Covid-19 positive cases.

The 22-page booklet dubbed “Home Based Isolation and Care Guidelines for Patients with Covid-19” was developed by the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council, the Kenya Health Professionals Oversight Authority, the World Health Organisation and other stakeholders in the health sector.

It provides a solution in the management of the increasing numbers and the anticipated surge in the Covid-19 cases.

The decision to look into home-based isolation was arrived at after it became apparent that it is no longer tenable to isolate all patients with the coronavirus in hospital-based treatment facilities. 

The government announced that the country is expected to record very high numbers of at least 200 coronavirus positive cases a day come August.

But it seems as though this may happen sooner rather than later after 184 positive cases were reported on June 17, just 16 cases short of the predicted number.  

After more than two months since the first positive case was reported in Kenya (March 13) we hit the 1,000 mark on May 20.

The numbers are however increasing exponentially with an increase of more than 3,000 cases in less than a month since then. The number of Covid-19 positive cases in the country currently stands at 4,044 (June 17).

At the moment, the government has 113 isolation centres spread across the country with a bed capacity of approximately 3,800, earmarked to deal with Covid-19 cases.

According to government records, the coronavirus is now in 40 counties with Nairobi leading in the number of cases followed by Mombasa and Busia at 1,804, 1,117 and 324, respectively.

It is, however, important to note that some counties have no isolation centres, meaning that patients reported to have contracted the virus in the said counties, will have to be transferred to facilities in the areas that are already prepared. 

Further, some health facilities like the Kenyatta National Hospital isolation unit in Mbagathi and Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospitals are already overstretched and cannot cope with the ever-increasing number of Covid-19 positive patients. 

To ease this burden, President Uhuru Kenyatta has since directed each county to have at least 300 isolation beds to address the increasing demand.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council, which serves as the National Coordination Center for Isolation and Quarantine Facilities, headed by Dr Eva Njenga, is working closely with the Council of Governors and respective county governments to ensure that the above directive is realised. 

In the meantime, however, with the current bed capacity of 3,800 for Covid-19 patients, a total number of 4,044 cases, and a major surge expected in less than two months, the importance of home-based isolation cannot be overemphasised. 

With 78 per cent of the infected persons admitted in hospitals either being asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic the government thought it best to initiate a sustainable way of handling the pandemic. 

The home-based protocols mean that these people can be managed at home provided proper laid down procedures are followed, paving way for the release of a majority of patients being held in isolation facilities, thereby decongesting health facilities.

The implementation of these guidelines is being done under the supervision of medical and public health officials and Community Health Volunteers. 

And for informal settlements where households share small spaces, the government will identify institutions within the community that meet the recommendations for providing such care.  - Daniel Yumbya, MBS. CEO, Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council

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