The Government of Kenya has been urged to bring aboard private hospitals and other sectoral players in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in the country in a bid to upscale the national capacity in the COVID-19 mass testing.
Speaking at the launch of the Nairobi West Hospital rollout of its COVID-19 testing services, Dr Andre Gachii, Director of Medical Services at the facility underscored the importance of the government to commission private hospitals with fully equipped and certified laboratories to conduct COVID-19 tests.
Dr Gachii noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global surge in demand for health services. In response, he said, all countries are striving to urgently increase their capacity to test, trace and treat COVID-19 patients while also maintaining their essential health services.
“By necessity, it is time for all hands on deck. Government must adopt a whole of society approach to the COVID-19 response, mobilising all available resources to keep health systems functioning. To do so, our government must have a policy framework for private health sector engagement,”
observed Dr Gachii.
He emphasised that while the testing strategy must be supplemented by protective measures such as proper wearing of masks, hand washing and social distancing, the more people are tested the higher the data collection that will provide a platform for better management of the spread of the virus.
This, he was categorical, will be the only way to provide the medical fraternity with indicators of how the virus is affecting people based on their demographics across communities.
“We have to adapt to the fact that COVID-19 is like any other chronic disease. All we need is different levels of preparedness and management to curb the rapid spread and reduce increasing fatal deaths,”
Nairobi West Hospital is a Level 6 facility and now a certified COVID-19 certified testing centre. The institution has launched a mass testing drive conducted all week round from 9am to 3pm.
At the facility, COVID-19 test results are provided within 24 hours. At the same time, Dr Gachii divulged that at the facility, there is a strict medical protocol where all patients due for admission at the facility receive free COVID-19 tests in a bid to safeguard the welfare of other patients and the medical personnel.
The hospital has a self-sufficient isolation ward including ICU and all newly admitted patients remain in the isolation wing till the COVID-19 test results are out. To scale up on service delivery, the hospital has also set up a COVID-19 special theatre that first attends to patients seeking emergency services but with no known COVID-19 status.
The purpose of isolation, Dr Gachii disclosed, is to protect the high-risk patients with underlying diseases from infection.
As positive cases continue to rise in Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the continent’s countries are not getting accurate figures on the extent of the outbreak, due to a lack of capabilities to conduct mass testing.
The appeal by the medics come at a time when evidence is mounting that mass testing, which involves the test-track-and-trace approach, can allow health officials to separate the infected from the healthy and stop the virus from spreading.
They said the logic behind mass testing is suppression — efforts to reduce the infectivity of a pandemic. Kenya’s biggest challenge for testing has been contact tracing, identifying then alerting people who have been within the infection range of a person confirmed to have the virus.
Nairobi West Hospital has also restricted visitations to patients on admission to reduce the more infections on the patients. The hospital administration, however, holds daily communication with the kin of the said patients.
Recently, the facility also installed a walk-in full-body disinfection screening area facility and thermal cameras in a bid to create a safety platform for patients and staff and curb the spread of COVID- 19.
The automated disinfectant-spray booth is installed at the entrance of the hospital for a 40-second sanitisation process. It is complemented by a remote sensing thermal cameras checking body temperatures in a second before welcoming anybody to the medical facility.
The Hospital’s Operations Director, Ashok Mehta was optimistic that the innovation is a frontline tool to boost the efforts in curbing the spread of COVID- 19. The hospital receives over 2000 and their kin every day.