Understaffed Tunisian hospital fights coronavirus spike

The situation in Tunisia’s Kairouan city is critical

“I am stunned,” said Sanna Krem, whose mother was placed in a wheelchair in a room of COVID-19 patients, “like a dog”, he described.

“They told me they couldn’t clear the bed occupied by a dead person,” a distressed Krem said in an interview with the Associated Press during a visit to the hospital this week.

Half a dozen rooms are dedicated to COVID-19 patients, each with five or six beds. A patient who had recently died was still seen lying on a bed in each of the rooms visited. A special service eventually removes the body.

In the past month, confirmed virus infections in Tunisia have reached the highest daily level since the pandemic began, but vaccination rates remain low, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Tunisia has reported the highest per capita death from the pandemic in Africa, and is currently recording the highest per capita infection rate in Africa, the data indicates.

A temporary hospital has been set up on the outskirts of the city. The military has also emphasized that with a military care facility under a green tent that has a row of beds with surveillance equipment and respirators. Despite the dire situation, widespread testing for COVID-19 is not happening in poor, rural areas.

Ibn Jajjar Hospital’s supervisor, Zohra Headways, explained that goodwill gestures by authorities end up as disappointing half-measures, such as opening a section to coronavirus patients, without provision for medical staff.

“We resort to recruiting staff from other departments in the hospital,” Headways told the AP. “It is very difficult to find volunteers as some do not know their (their) physical immunity level, others fear for their relatives who have weak immunity. We want a stable workforce that is capable of working.”

Headways said there is such a shortage of trained personnel that at times sophisticated equipment cannot be used.

“We need more labor than we need new equipment,” he said, while equipment comes from donors – who are still needed – there is still a greater need for trained professionals “who can use it and take care of it.” Huh.”

Faced with an “alarming” increase in infections, the Tunisian government on Tuesday extended an overnight curfew and ordered an intensification of vaccination efforts in rural areas. But it resisted calls for a national lockdown due to public despair over the economic impact on a population already grappling with unemployment and economic fallout.

Tunisia has reported more than 14,000 virus-related deaths among a population of 12 million since the start of the pandemic, with more than 400 infections per 100,000 people in four regions, including Kairouan, where hospitals are over capacity.


Bouza Ben Bouza in Tunis and Elaine Gunley in Paris contributed to this report.


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