Ambulance Shortage Worsens Covid-19 Burden In Mash West Hotspots

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

MASHONALAND West acting provincial medical director (PMD), Gift Masoja says the shortage of stand-by ambulances to ferry critically ill Covid-19 patients is worsening the disease burden in three hotspot districts in the province.

This follows the recent death of a woman suffering from Covid-19 who was denied emergency treatment as there was no ambulance to ferry her to a better equipped hospital for further management.

Masoja confirmed the unfortunate incident which occurred at Makonde Christian Hospital in Mhangura recently.

“There was the death of a woman we could have saved at Makonde Christian Hospital. She had severe Covid-19 signs and symptoms, but we failed to transfer that patient on time because there was no ambulance to take her to Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital where we have the main isolation centre that covers that area.

“The major challenge that we are facing is transport,” Masoja told Monday.

The health ministry has pledged to provide an ambulance to be stationed at Makonde Christian Hospital, in addition to the one at Karoi District Hospital reserved for Covid-19 emergencies, he said.

Masoja said the number of new Covid-19 positive cases continues to soar in the three red zone districts due to non-compliance with World Health Organisation (WHO) prevention and containment protocols among residents.

The health ministry, he said, has noted high levels of complacency by residents in Covid-19 hotspot districts of Kariba, Hurungwe and Makonde to adhere to set guidelines to prevent the further spread of the respiratory ailment which has so far claimed 160 lives in the province since the disease broke out last year.

Masoja said lack of adherence to Covid-19 lockdown regulations such as wearing face masks, hand sanitising, keeping physical distancing was militating against efforts to contain coronavirus.

“The biggest challenge we have is that people are not complying in as far as Covid protocols are concerned,” he said.

The acting PMD decried the continued travel of people into and out of the Covid-19 red zones and unnecessary movement of local residents in public spaces which are fuelling the spread of the deadly viral disease.

He said new Covid-19 infections increased exponentially in June, surpassing previous recorded figures since the onset of the pandemic last year.

“The province witnessed 1 015 new positive cases this month alone of the total 3 144 recorded so far.

“Since 31 May 2021 to date, Hurungwe recorded 595 new cases and nine deaths, Kariba recorded 290 new positive cases, thereby surpassing the total of 245 since the start of the pandemic. Of the 13 deaths in Kariba district, two were witnessed in June.

“In Makonde district, out of the total 691 recorded since the onset of the pandemic, 81 new cases and four deaths were for June,” said Masoja.

Makonde district, which encompasses Chinhoyi which is the provincial administrative capital, has so far recorded 42 deaths.

Masoja reiterated the need to seal off the three districts from visitors.

“We have now declared that Kariba, Hurungwe and Makonde are hotspots, including Chirundu border, but you find out that buses are travelling all the way from Harare to Kariba or Chirundu and back, there is need for strictness.”

Kariba district police commander, Chief Superintendent Misheck Ngorima said Monday police were on high alert and enforcing Covid-19 lockdown measures at 24-hour roadblocks and were conducting both night and day patrols, which have witnessed 83 people arrested for lockdown breaches.

The district police boss also noted transport challenges to ferry officers to enforcement and Covid-19 awareness duties.

Ngorima paid tribute to private companies, Padenga Holdings and Lake Harvest, for extending logistical help to ZRP.

Hurungwe district police commander, Chief Superintendent Helena Mahonde has warned the public against loitering and patronising shebeens.