COVID-19 and Shortage of Bed Spaces, Ventilators, PPE

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As Nigeria continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages of bed spaces, personal protective equipment, testing kits and ventilators pose a huge challenge to winning the war in the country, Martins Ifijeh writes

Last week, the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu mentioned that the country has only 3500 bed spaces for the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases, and that Lagos, Kano and Abuja were almost running out of spaces for patients.

He said due to this shortage, the federal government would consider homecare. “We are struggling at the moment, ultimately we might have to change our strategy a little bit and start considering homecare in certain circumstances, to provide a room where a patient can be managed sufficiently”.

Also, the National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr, Sani Aliyu during a webinar last week said before now, Nigeria had only 350 ventilators for its 200 million populations, and that 100 have now been added to it through donations and purchases; meaning 450 ventilators are what the country presently has.
Bed spaces and ventilators are not the only medical supplies and equipment in short supply. Nigeria is currently battling with lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for its health workers and test kits to check for samples of suspected cases.

While these important tools are no doubt in short supply globally, they pose peculiar challenges for Nigeria considering that the country’s COVID-19 number is far from reaching its peak; which suggests in few weeks, its health system will begin to shrink, and if no urgent measures are taking, may overwhelm the system at the expense of the lives of Nigerians.

As at Wednesday, the country had 2950 confirmed cases, 481 discharged persons and 98 deaths; statistics which suggests not less than 2,300 active cases are currently using isolation beds, leaving the entire country left with only 700 bed spaces.

A Public Health Expert and Epidemiologist, Dr. Frank Ndubuisi told THISDAY that with the gradual rise in COVID-19 cases, the country would most likely clock 10, 000 in three weeks, adding that soon, this will have a hold on the health facility in the country.

He said: “Today, we are complaining of bed spaces. What happens when cases clock 10,000 before month ending? What happens when we reach our peak in June or July when cases must have reached 20,000 to 40,000?
“There is no better time to prepare emergency isolation centres than because soon, we may become helpless if this is not done.”

He said Nigeria’s peculiar setting will make homecare for COVID-19 patients challenging, adding that very few Nigerians can provide extra rooms for themselves for the treatment of the disease as seen in developed climes.

“If we are serious about addressing this, we will need to take everyone infected out of circulation. Such persons must be looked out for in hospitals, away from the communities,” he added.

On the dearth of ventilators in the country, he called on the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) and the Nigeria Medical Research Institute (NIMR) to champion locally made ventilators as was the case with many countries, even in Africa.

On Tuesday, the Lagos State Government said it was battling with shortage of reagents for COVID-19 testing.
The Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotosho said: “The shortage of reagents is a global problem. It is not peculiar to Lagos. The kind of tests we are conducting in Lagos and in Nigeria is called molecular testing, which experts say is 99.9 per cent correct. The people selling the reagents are now doing as if it is gold. Lagos is looking for ways of working directly with suppliers outside the country.

“The truth is that Lagos is battling with shortage of reagents, but we will keep on collecting samples.”
In the Federal Capital Territory, authorities said they were battling with shortages of test kits for COVID-19.
The Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister of FCT, Abubakar Sani said: “The FCT is facing the global challenge of a shortage of test kits. The more kits we get, the more FCTA will perform tests to identify those infected and isolate them.”

The Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association, Lagos State Chapter, Dr. Saliu Oseni said the shortage of PPE was hampering the fight against COVID-19 in the country, adding that this has had a huge toll on health workers who are on the front line.

Oseni, who spoke on Arise News Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, Tuesday, said: “We presently have over 300 health workers infected by the virus in the line of duty. Government should provide PPE so this undue exposure will be minimized. Many of our healthcare workers are getting infected because the government is yet to do what it is supposed to do. There is so much health workers can do when PPEs are not available.”

Oseni said if the country hopes to defeat the virus, it should ensure necessary tools were available, including PPEs, testing kits, facilities, bed spaces, among others.