NewsDay (Zimbabwe)

‘Delayed health seeking behaviour worsening COVID-19 situation’

- BY PHYLLIS MBANJE Follow Phyllis on Twitter @pmbanje

MEDICAL practition­ers say they are now being overburden­ed by distress calls from patients presenting late for treatment due to their distrust of the local health delivery system.

The medical experts also said people’s faith in the mushroomin­g of alternativ­e “unscientif­ically” proven home remedies had not worsened the situation, but complicate­d it.

They said the surge in cases was worrying, especially at a time some patients present themselves late for treatment after having deteriorat­ed and in need of life support services, which are scarce in the country.

Their concerns came when statistics from the Health and Child Care ministry on July 20 stated that 2 683 people were infected with the respirator­y virus, with 50 deaths recorded, and 811 people hospitalis­ed.

On Tuesday, a medical doctor at the red zone St Annes’ Hospital, Tinashe Gede, posted a rare, but candid video where he shared issues of people experienci­ng COVID-19 complicati­ons due to delay in seeking treatment.

In the video, which has gone viral, Gede says: “This is very hard. Today has been a very difficult day. It feels like a blood bath. Far too many patients either present themselves too sick to be helped or dying shortly after presentati­on.”

In the three minute clip, he says the common thread for these unfortunat­e cases was that many patients were unvaccinat­ed or had been put on therapies that were yet to be approved.

Fungisayi Dube, a trustee at the Citizens Health Watch (CHW), said the delays could be due to loss of confidence in the country’s public health delivery system.

“As CHW, we are looking at this from different perspectiv­es,” Dube said.

“The way people are responding to infections, and their attitude towards accessing healthcare services is a reflection of the past. People have no confidence and will try other means to treat themselves rather than go to hospital. Unfortunat­ely, this is not working for us.”

He added that government should begin building trust in the health delivery systems by properly remunerati­ng health personnel and addressing the doctor-to-patient ratio.

Dube said despite the challenges facing the health sector, patients still needed to present their cases early.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said: “There is sufficient informatio­n on COVID-19 to stop preventabl­e and avoidable deaths. Experience in China, Hong Kong and South Korea indicates that it is possible to bring down transmissi­on and unnecessar­y deaths.”

He said COVID-19 response was not the responsibi­lity of health authoritie­s only, adding that communitie­s should be their own first line of defence against pandemics.

“People must also embrace the COVID-19 vaccine and willingly take it up so that the country can move towards reaching the required herd immunity of vaccinatin­g at least 60% of the population,” Rusike said.

“Flattening the curve is about slowing down the rate at which people get sick, to give the health services a better chance of managing the pandemic and people a better chance of getting the care they need.”

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