Inside Erongo quarantine camps

Food shortage forces patients to roam streets

21 July 2020 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK



A crisis is looming in the Erongo Region where multitudes of Covid-19 patients are self-quarantined in backyard rooms, while state facilities are overflowing with patients forced to sometimes share dysfunctional facilities.

The situation has reached boiling point to the extent that chairperson of the Walvis Bay disaster risk management committee, councillor Knowledge Ipinge, relayed his fears to government in a letter that hundreds of coronavirus-positive residents might be roaming the streets.

This is because of a shortage of food that is apparently becoming rare in some facilities.

Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said he is awaiting official report through Erongo regional health director Anna Jonas' office.

“I do not get reports from Mr Knowledge. My reports come from the director of health in the region. Anything which is of substance will come through our official channel, which is our representative on the ground. This is our regional director and she has not reported this. What I know and was told is that there are operational issues,” Shangula said.



Shortage of facilities

Erongo governor Neville Andre confirmed that there is a shortage of facilities and said they are preparing more locations for isolation purposes.

This comes at a time when Covid-19 cases at the town are rapidly increasing, with four deaths having been reported at Walvis Bay alone.

According to Ipinge, the Covid-19-positive residents are exposing others to the deadly virus because the health ministry is unwilling to heed his calls for urgent intervention.





The letter, written on 14 July, already reached Shangula on 15 July, however, at the time he told Namibian Sun he had not yet read it.



Self-quarantine in shacks

Ipinge informed Shangula that some residents are forced into unmonitored self-quarantine in backyard shacks where they share facilities such as toilets and showers with about 50 other people.

Ipinge also said some of these self-quarantined infected residents have nothing to eat and are forced to leave their dwellings to beg for food from neighbours or at local supermarkets.

“The doctors and nurses at the Walvis Bay District Hospital are fighting a losing battle with a hospital full beyond its capacity, positive cases presenting to be really sick since Thursday (9 July).”

Other issues he listed were: “One ventilator but no intensive care unit (ICU), no ICU nurses, no medication, no specialists, no option to transfer critical cases”.

According to Ipinge, the recently equipped military hospital was a mere public relations stunt which still has not been equipped with medical staff, while it only has two beds with oxygen tanks.

He also informed Shangula that cleaners at the Walvis Bay District Hospital work without adequate personal protective equipment.



No medication

A patient in a quarantine facility in Henties Bay told Namibian Sun that 72 women are quarantined in one facility with one toilet, and only 20 of these women have tested positive for the virus.

The source, who tested positive on 2 July, claimed to not have received any medication or vitamins from nurses.

“We are just on our own. Toilet paper and medication we are buying for ourselves now. Our families are dropping it off at the hospital in Walvis Bay,” the source said.

According to this person, they were transported like “animals” in the dark of night from Walvis Bay to Henties Bay.

“We are sharing one toilet among five women and we have to clean the toilet ourselves. Our food is dropped off far away and we have to walk [400 metres] just to fetch our food. There are days when we have no electricity and no hot water to shower,” the source said.



Ill-prepared

Meanwhile, nurses at the Henties Bay quarantine facility have complained that 56 people use one toilet at the site.

According to insiders, nurses went for five days without bathing because there were no showers available.

“They brought us to a facility that was not medically equipped, not even oxygen cylinders. I mean, if I am with patients, then I should be prepared for anything that can happen. The director is aware of these things but nothing is done. They gave us a house, but it has no electricity,” a source said.

It has also been reported that patients go for two weeks without being tested, while they have to wait for test results for more than three weeks.

“Patients are complaining that they are called and informed that they have tested negative, but they are still kept among positive patients sharing the same toilet. “Currently they are busy renovating classes here where the negative patients will be isolated, but it will still take some time.”



Crisis

Namibian Sun has also learnt that a Covid-19 patient was admitted to Walvis Bay District Hospital on 10 July, but transferred to Welwitschia Hospital because there were no ICU facilities.

According to a confidential letter addressed to Shangula, the patient has medical aid but its benefits have been depleted, and plans were made to transfer him to an equipped state hospital in Windhoek or Oshakati.

The letter also indicated that a local airline company approached to handle the transfer declined the offer because the patient is Covid-19 positive.

“It is alleged that the transfer was done in the absence of a signed service level agreement between the state and the Welwitschia Hospital,” the letter stated.

Shangula confirmed the matter, but said the patient will remain at Welwitschia and receive treatment until he has recovered.

“People with Covid-19 are not transferred, they are treated wherever they are,” he said.



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