By Laura Miti
I write this post for those in charge of the COVID response.
Having spent 10 days running around to save a friend, I discovered a disturbing situation that I am convinced administrators have no idea of.
It is that we are losing people to COVID in two ways:
- The illness itself – medical staff try their best to save a patient, but fail.
- A total breakdown of care when patients are hospitalised. Patients die from neglect, not COVID.
It is the latter I want to bring to light.
When a COVID patient is admitted, they are essentially taken into secrecy. No one can see what is happening because COVID guidelines prevent the bedsider, that rock that holds up the Zambian health care system.No visitors are allowed either.
I will speak of the Bauleni COVID Centre and Levy Mwanawasa High Cost – because those are the two I experienced.
The two centres are critically understaffed. There are times when there is one exhausted nurse for 20 – 30 critical patients.
They can’t cope.
So, other than oxygen, a patient can get next to zero attention.
In Bauleni, power goes. As in they get loadshedded. Shockingly, relatives are not told that a simple extension cable that connects oxygen to the genset, can save their patient’s life. By the time we discovered the vitality of the extension cables and delivered them, our patient’s oxygen saturation had plummeted multiple times.His saturation fell from the 99 he achieved when he was first connected to the oxygen to 82, then a second time to 46, then 56.He never went back over 80.
But that’s not what’s giving me hell.
It is that as his energy waned after the multiple times off oxygen, he begun to send texts begging me to get a nurse to feed him, give him water, pain medication. To help him wear something warm.In desperation, we moved him to Levy Mwanwasa High Cost, hoping for better basic care. Oh, the relief, when we left Bauleni.
Things got no better.
“I’m thirsty, please get someone to give me water.”
This message comes as you are stuck at home or outside. You can’t go in.
You shout at the door for a nurse to come. No one does. You call the number of a nurse you managed to get, they don’t pick up.
They are overwhelmed.
In the end, panicked out of my mind, I got myself a PPE and went in.
But I was too late.
He was thirsty, hungry, weak, in pain.
He needed to be at least on a drip.
I gave him water, fed him.
At some point, I noticed his oxygen bag was not inflating.
A nurse sitting by the bedside on the next bed (specially hired I think) tried to help while I searched for the nurse on duty.
A nurse on duty with 30 maybe 40 odd other critically ill patients, on the night.
The nurse finally came, but it took a while to discover that whoever had put more water in the oxygen gadget, had left it loose.
By the time the oxygen was reconnected, it was just a matter of time.
We lost him…not to COVID persay.
Please allow bedsiders. Dress them up in PPEs.
Hire nursing assistants to feed the patients. To give honest information to familes. To take medicine and food from relatives waiting outside, quickly.
It can take you an hour to get food to your patient.Then they are not fed immediately or at all.
Hire assistants so the nursing staff can concentrate on medication.
So our loved ones do not have to die unnecessarily painful deaths.
Oh God, it’s better not to know how your person died in a COVID centre.