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Kenyans left to own devices as COVID-19 rages

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-10-14 17:21

A healthcare worker attends to a patient with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) inside the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward at the Care Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya, Aug 4, 2021. [Photo/Agencies] 

With a shortage of hospital beds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many coronavirus patients in Kenya are left to take care for themselves.

Mark Oyier, a communication specialist operating in the country's Kisumu city, said that he contracted COVID-19 two months ago but had to self-medicate and stay at home because he could not get bed space at the city's Nyanza General Hospital.

"Since I travel very often, I have been taking regular COVID-19 tests but two months ago, I started experiencing difficulty in breathing and fatigue. I could not stand for extended periods of time and simple tasks like carrying my baby became tedious," Oyier says.

After visiting the hospital, he was confirmed to be infected with the virus but could not get admitted and he was advised to undertake home-based care.

"I was prescribed some vitamins and flu medicine but I was advised to self-isolate at home. At first it was difficult because I have a young son who would be restless knowing that I was locked in the bedroom but could see him. However, on consequent visits to the hospital I was advised that I can see my family periodically while isolating as long as I wore a mask and thoroughly sanitized," Oyier says.

Three weeks after being infected, he tested negative for the virus and was allowed to end his self-isolation. However, he said that he was worried about undertaking home-based care for fear of infecting his family.

"It is difficult being in the same house with your family without being able to see them. In as much as home-based care was cheap for me, the mere fact that I could infect my family got me worried and I would have preferred to incur the expense of being admitted in hospital," Oyier said.

According to Tabitha Ouma, a nurse at Kenya's Kenyatta National hospital, all the 48 beds set aside for COVID-19 patients at the hospital's infectious disease unit are full, forcing the hospital to convert a tuberculosis ward into a COVID-19 holding ward. However, as more cases arise, more patients are advised to undertake home-based care.

"The COVID-19 ward only has 20 oxygen cylinders which are all in use. The hospital has a makeshift COVID ward which is not in use because of lack of oxygen cylinders. We are also understaffed since the COVID-19 ward only has three nurses per shift," Ouma said.

According to the nurse, the hospital closed its doors to walk-in patients starting July as part of decongestion of the facility due to rising numbers of COVID-19 patients. However, she is happy that the government is stepping up its campaign against COVID-19 by adopting the use of multiple vaccines to supplement the Oxford AstraZeneca doses.

"Currently, our hospital has embraced administration of Moderna, Sinopharm, Johnson and Johnson, and Pfizer vaccines, as a way of expanding the scope of immunization." She added that they have also been trained by the ministry of health on patient communication, symptom management, skill development and a transdisciplinary approach to address the physical and emotional suffering brought about by COVID-19.

During a visit to the Kigumo Hospital in the country's Murang'a County, Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya's minister for health said the COVID-19 pandemic created a need for the expansion of health facilities to accommodate more patients.

"Whereas the expansion of physical facilities is important in the fight against COVID-19 it is equally good to embrace telehealth technologies and have asymptomatic patients undertake home-based care to ensure that even from the comfort of their homes, patients are able to manage the virus," Kagwe said.

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