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STOPPING CONTAGION

We need infectious disease hospitals

It doesn’t make sense to spend the Covid-19 billions on just PPE, masks and ventilators.

In Summary
  • Due to our unique circumstances, the infectious disease hospital must be mobile.
  • Hospitals must also have a dedicated team of medics who are specially trained to respond to all kinds of infections.
Governor Joho, flanked by senior county and national government officials, at an isolation ward at Coast General Hospital on Monday.
LEAVING NOTHING TO CHANCE: Governor Joho, flanked by senior county and national government officials, at an isolation ward at Coast General Hospital on Monday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Even as Kenyans put pressure on government to reopen the economy, we must be aware of a possible peak in coronavirus infections. Do we have the medical infrastructure to weather a peak?

We have enough isolation centres and our bed space capacity is growing. However, Kenya lacks a publicly owned infectious diseases hospital.

These hospitals are not the same as having isolation wards. Infectious diseases hospitals are specially designed to keep medical workers safe and the environment free of the virus.

Singapore, South Korea have lower infections among health workers  because of such facilities. The  facilities were designed as per WHO recommendations for severe infectious disease wards with independent air supply and exhaust systems.

This is how it works. Air is directed and pressured according to a certain pressure gradient, filtered and disinfected before being discharged outdoors.

The air pressure in the polluted area is lower than the air pressure in the non-polluted area, forming a pressure gradient difference in each area to prevent the bacteria or virus from spreading out. The places outside the disease area will not be polluted, thus protecting medical staff from infection.

A hospital without a negative pressure ward is like a factory full of nuclear radiation. No space in the hospital is clean. Medical staff and other patients with non-communicable diseases have no place to hide and relax.

This underscores the urgency for Kenya to create its own infectious disease hospital.

A hospital without a negative pressure ward is like a factory full of nuclear radiation. No space in the hospital is clean. Medical staff and other patients with non-communicable diseases have no place to hide and relax.

Any carelessness when using common facilities, like toilets, eating places and rest areas increase the high risk of infection. Naturally, the awareness that you could easily be infected causes great pressure on the physical and mental health of medical staff. It reduces their enthusiasm as well as making them afraid of treating and caring for patients. This is not obviously unconducive to the rehabilitation of patients, and efforts to defeat Covid-19 as soon as possible.

Due to our unique circumstances, the infectious disease hospital must be mobile. This will enable the unit to be deployed anywhere in the country with speed and ease. We never know where the next outbreak will be. A mobile responsive and effective infectious disease unit will bolster reactions to cholera, Ebola outbreaks or even future coronaviruses.

The coronavirus outbreak requires us to step up our medical and disease response. We must indeed adjust or perish.

Hospitals must also have a dedicated team of medics who are specially trained to respond to all kinds of infections. This means that even how patients are received at the gate must be different from how a normal hospital would handle patients

The security levels and protocols will and must be such that once a contagion checks in it can never check out or infect others. This is the gold standard and the ideal to which we as a nation must aspire to.

It doesn’t make sense to spend the Covid-19 billions on just PPE, masks and ventilators.  Let us take half of that money and ensure Kenya is always prepared for such a disaster.

Let us set up an infectious disease hospital for this crisis and any others in the future. In so doing we will not only keep our people safe but be a regional health hub to boost medical tourism income.