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Letters

LETTERS: Ensure continuity of healthcare despite crisis

healthcare worker
The risk of infection of healthcare workers has been a thorn in the flesh for many countries. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Covid-19 is probably here with us for the next 12 to 18 months. That is, until we get a vaccine. I applaud the government’s efforts. It has managed to slow down the curve and the numbers of Covid-19 patients are coming in at a manageable rate.

However, we cannot restrict healthcare to only Covid-19 patients. We also cannot wait for the post-pandemic period to resume normalcy. We must create a new normalcy – that of living with Covid-19. This is an environment where we co-exist with the disease in the safest manner for doctors and other hospital workers, patients and visitors to the hospital.

For those who have postponed treatments, surgeries, procedures, vaccinations and clinics, it is important to rethink this decision. There is a clinical reason why your physician had made your patient care plan anyway. Don’t wait until the patient becomes an emergency, rather seek care in a safe environment. The priority for healthcare providers should be safety first.

At the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi we are cognisant of this fact and have taken a raft of measures to ensure a safe environment for continued care of all patients (both those with Covid-19 and others). We are a not a Covid-19 hospital. We are a general hospital that has taken all measures possible to ensure that we attend to all patients in a safe environment while taking care of Covid-19 patients safely.

On a normal day, safety at the hospital or any of our outreach centres is our highest priority. Now with Covid-19 reality, we are even more vigilant. We have a dedicated team of housekeeping staff who are decontaminating and sterilising the hospital areas and equipment continuously. All patients, visitors, doctors and employees are screened upon entry and their temperature is measured. They are also required to wear masks. We are also ensuring that everyone is practicing distancing and have set up additional waiting areas to facilitate this.

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The risk of infection of healthcare workers has been a thorn in the flesh for many countries. This calls on the government and healthcare providers to put measures in place to ensure the safety of our first line of defense. If they are not well protected, then our response as a nation is compromised.

For us at AKUH, staff safety is our highest priority and we have provided the necessary Personal Protective Equipment, training and psychosocial support for all our staff. To further enhance their safety and other patients, we are have introduced a free of charge Covid-19 testing for all patients who are admitted to the Hospital for surgery or other procedures, including maternity.

This will enable us determine the best approach to care for our patients including the use of PPE during their stay in the Hospital hence enhance the safety of patients and caregivers.

Even as the world deals with this pandemic, pregnant women still require their ante-natal care, children need to be on schedule for their vaccinations, emergencies need to be attended to, people living with chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, cancer and others still require access to physicians, for continuity of care.

We therefore must learn the new normal and provide care safely. If we fail to do so we risk an even bigger healthcare crisis in the near future.

Majid Twahir, Associate Dean, Clinical Services and Chief of Staff at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.

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