THE PERCH - COVID-19 Preparedness ZW

By THEMBA NZOUNHENDA

The pandemic is upon us, no doubt. Statistics indicate three deaths from eleven positive cases. That appears like a drop in the ocean if we compare to other countries like USA, Italy, Spain, Iran, Britain and even much closer to home South Africa. But, each statistic is sad news that must be prevented at all cost. At least all the other countries seem better prepared in terms testing and caring for those affected and infected by the virus, and are more open and honest about the statistics and their interventions…

A few interviews with medical practitioners and all frontline staff tell a sad possible reality. Doctors and nurses spoken to fear than there are some inefficiencies and deficiencies in our country’s response, preparedness and planning in the fight against the pandemic.

Firstly, the frontline staff in the system are not well equipped with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This alone greatly exposes them to the deadly virus, worse still they expose the generality of citizens they come into contact with to the virus. Further to that our hospitals are not adequately stocked with the primary requirements to treat patients visiting hospitals, at least the designated ones to handle covid-19 patients. Lay knowledge tell us we need the paracetamols and other drugs to primarily care for these patients.

Secondly, when approaching partners for assistance in this fight, there is great need to indicate to them that we need more of the primary priorities in volumes that the secondary necessities like ventilators. I agreed with one doctor who suggested that in as much as we need the ventilators in the care process, we should acquire more of the primary care drugs first. Ventilators are required in the last and critical stages of the illness, and we have a chance to prevent the worsening of patients’ conditions if these primary medicines are provided. Thank you to our donors who are said to have acquired and donated forty five ventilators to fight the pandemic. But, I repeat, but if the health department and other stakeholders had offered technical advice properly, ten ventilators in the meantime would have sufficed and the other thirty five would have covered tonnes of medicines and testing kits that are urgently needed if our response to and management of the pandemic is to prevent further spreading and deaths. I must hasten to say that my assertion is not to undermine the sincere and hearty intervention from our donor community, no.

Thirdly, the lockdown and quarantine methods must be appropriately enforced and implemented if they are to be successful. In an informalised economy as ours, government needs to ensure all loopholes are plugs that may render the interventions a failure. People with no savings are highly unlikely to heed call if no mitigatory measures are put in place. We also need to interrogate if the system is educative enough to empower citizens to understand and appreciate the importance of such social distancing initiatives.

As a country, we need allocative efficiencies in the acquisition of requirements for fighting this pandemic if we contextually consider our meagre resources as compared the economic giants well resources but heavily losing in the fight. We must critically question what is needed at what stage of the illness so that we do not have the system lacking simple and cheap paracetamols but equipped with modern ventilators waiting for those that did not get primary drugs, to deteriorate and seek ventilation too late into the process.