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MINISTER REQUESTS COVID-19 SPECIALIST TEAM FROM WHO

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MBABANE – There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help. 

This adage rings true for the Ministry of Health, which has written to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director, seeking the support of an International Emergency Medical Team in Eswatini for a minimum period of four weeks. 

The letter, written and signed by Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi, was confirmed by Director of Health Services Dr Vusi Magagula. However, he was reluctant to give details on the number of specialists needed for each area of the health experts, only confirming that the country indeed needed highly trained experts to assist in managing the second wave of COVID-19 that has seen an alarming spike in the number of new cases and related deaths.  Dated January 2, 2021, the letter requests medical experts in five areas and these are team lead, critical care physicians, critical care nurses, biomedical technicians and epidemiologists. 

All teams interested in being deployed and meet the criteria were requested to do so on or before January 15, 2021. 

Nkosi, through the letter, said the Kingdom of Eswatini was one of the countries in the Africa Region facing unprecedented public health challenges related to  the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the country was currently facing a severe second wave, with more than double the number of cases confirmed with COVID-19 on a daily basis compared to the first wave. 

“The high number of new cases has resulted in health systems that are now overstretched, including a severe shortage of oxygen supply to the people who need it. The second wave is also resulting in more client admissions as a majority of the clients are presenting with symptoms, which rapidly progress to severe and critical illness. Furthermore, the capacity to manage critically ill patients is not adequate in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of patients presenting with severe illness,” she said. 

The minister said in order to support the efforts already underway in the implementation of the plan to respond to this pandemic, the country was sending a request to the WHO in order to seek the support of an international emergency medical team for a minimum period of four weeks. 

“Deployment of Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) is subject to approval by the Ministry of Health of Eswatini. Once in the field, the coordination of EMT activities is led by the Ministry of Health and supported by WHO. Teams are expected to comply with the minimum standards of being a deployable EMT. The Ministry of Health is ready to provide necessary logistical support; however, teams are expected to be self-sufficient as required by the minimum standards,” reads a correspondence from the EMT secretariat.  

According to an analysis derived from the request, Eswatini now has 11 COVID-19 treatment centres, nine public and two private. 

With a total bed capacity of 437 and the occupancy rate is rising every week. The country has 29 beds for critical care with all 29 of them occupied, giving an occupancy rate of 100 per cent. 

There are 26 additional critical care beds available, but they are not utilised due to limited oxygen supply and inadequate critical care physicians and nurses. Also highlighted was the scarcity of biomedical engineers to support installation and maintenance if critical care equipment remains a challenge.

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