Black Lion decry lack of gov’t attention, protective gear
Dead bodies remain in hospital for up to 5 days for COVID-19 test
Inquiry Board calls for urgent intervention for safety of frontline responders
Officials of the biggest state-owned hospital, Black Lion Hospital (Tikur Anbesa), have told the Inquiry board of the COVID-19 State of Emergency (SoE) that it is receiving less attention from the government preventing it from delivering healthcare services to both regular as well as COVID-19 patients.
On Wednesday, doctors told visiting parliamentarians that it has lent its chief doctors and lead physicians to Eka Kotebe Hospital to attend to patients admitted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, receiving no recognition from the government.
Medical Director of the hospital and president of Addis Ababa University Health Science College, Dawit Wondimagegn (MD), told lawmakers that regarding the appropriate support the hospital deserves from the government, “there are obvious limitations from the side of the government.”
“In addition, the hospital faces acute shortages of health service equipment, protective gear, ambulance vehicles as well as other related challenges,” he told Inquiry Board members adding, “The hospital has been extensively playing its part in the ongoing efforts of fighting COVID-19 and responding to other diseases, and our specialized doctors are currently deployed at Eka Kotebe and St. Peter’s hospitals where they are discharging their professional responsibilities. However, our hospital is receiving neither any acknowledgement nor any support from the government.”
As part of the nationwide efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, he said “There should be a way to enable the hospital to test and diagnose COVID-19, with amendment to the current SoE.”
Stating several challenges, Dr. Dawit said the hospital’s inability to garner the government’s attention stems from the prevailing communication gaps. He, however, did not give an explanation.
However, he stressed that his hospital has encountered shortages including the lack of isolation space (quarantine center) protective equipment’s, ventilators and laboratory machines.
“For instance, according to the enforcement of the SoE, if a patient dies in our hospital, the body is not released without a test for COVID-19. That means the body can only be discharged from the hospital if it tests negative. Unfortunately, we don’t have permission to conduct COVID-19 test. Hence, a body remains in the hospital for as long as five days.
After concluding their visit, member of the Inquiry board, Biruk Lapiso (PhD), said that he and his co-members have observed that the number of patients, who are admitted to the hospital with a regular disease but are found to be COVID-19 positive, is increasing every day.
Due to this, the possibility of healthcare workers being exposed to the pandemic is increasing unless shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) is addressed quickly.
“Unless the government steps in with urgency, to provide the PPE, its consequence would be too devastating to cope nationwide,” Biruk warned.
The Vice Chairman of the Inquiry Board, Tesfaye Daba, who shared the concerns raised by his co-members and the hospital officials, on his part said: “A swift and immediate action” will be taken to enable healthcare workers protect themselves first before we let them go to the frontline to battle the epidemic.
Chairman of the Inquiry Board, Petros Woldesenbet, pledged to hospital officials that the Board will discuss with the relevant authority to resolve the pressing concerns echoed by the hospital’s managements.
“In this battle, the safety of health professionals is never to be compromised, their vulnerability is widening with a faster pace. The board has noticed the extent of the problem frontline responders’ face. So, the board is working with the relevant body to resolve the existing gap as soon as possible,” Petros said to hospital officials.
The visit comes two days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) appeared before the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) to explain his government’s “extensive” efforts to contain the pandemic.
Underlining measures the government has taken to contain the spread of the pandemic, PM Abiy told the House that Ethiopia did not have the capacity to diagnose a COVID-19 case when the first case was reported in the country.
“At the beginning, we had just a single laboratory that was vital to identify and diagnose the first suspect COVID-19, in the country,” Abiy said.
However, the government has since then intensified its efforts over the past three months to expand testing centers. Now, there are 31 testing laboratories in all Regional States and City Administrations, with the capacity to test 8, 000 people per day, he said.
He further said that seven testing laboratories will commence giving services at the end of this week, bringing the total laboratories to 38.
An additional 15 laboratories will also start giving service soon, which will help expand the country’s testing capacity to 14,000 by July. A total of 142, 960 tests have been conducted to date, he said, adding “But in terms of population size, this number is very low.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, infection prevention and control measures include, among other measures: hand hygiene, PPE and waste management materials.