The most effective COVID-19 management is one question governments around the world are trying to figure out. The current method of creating isolation centers is overwhelming the health sector. To deal with the rising cases of positive patients, the government of Rwanda is exploring an unorthodox COVID-19 management method. Inasmuch as this is a commendable move, it has its pros and cons.
It is the role of government is to protect its citizens and provide essential services. This includes providing efficient healthcare facilities and ensuring a vibrant healthcare system. Rwandans have every reason to be proud of the efforts their government is taking to combat the effect of the virus. At the start of the pandemic, the country received high accolades for their robust and innovative COVID-19 management response. To free-up the health system, the government is considering home-based COVID-19 management.
The Rwandan government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is one of the best in the continent. Early and extensive measures—a strict nationwide lockdown from March 21 to May 4, pool testing, comprehensive contact tracing, and quarantining of cases—laid important groundwork for the country’s broad-based response. Rwanda also made headlines for incorporating technology into its response in a way that few other countries did, by deploying drones for disseminating health information and using anti-epidemic robots that can screen up to 150 people per minute for common virus symptoms including fevers and dry cough.
How Rwanda measures up in COVID-19 Management
The COVID-19 numbers in Rwanda as of 31st August were 4,020 cases and 16 deaths. Also, 1,918 patients have recovered from the infection. Following guidelines provided by WHO, home-based COVID-19 management has been successfully implemented in countries such as Kenya. Studies have shown that 80% of those who catch COVID-19 do not require specialized treatment. This includes symptomatic or presymptomatic who test positive but have no symptoms. Others exhibit mild to moderate illness and recover within 2 weeks.
This category of patients are the ones who will benefit from COVID-19 home-care management. Unfortunately, COVID-19 management at home is not applicable to the vulnerable. The vulnerable minority include those above 60years and those with underlying ailments. Many of them become seriously ill, require special treatment in isolation wards, intensive care units, or rely on ventilators for survival.
The importance of planning ahead
The novel coronavirus has the tendency of spreading really fast. The cases can start with a few tens and hit hundreds within days. Countries overwhelmed by the pandemic are those that failed to plan ahead. At present, Rwanda’s healthcare system can adequately handle the infection in the country. However, preparedness is key to ensure that special facilities are set aside for the unknown. According to Rwandan minister for health Dr. Daniel Ngamije,
“It is a plan. We know that at one point we may be implementing it. We are at the stage of piloting the model in different districts to see how feasible it is, its requirements, and how they can be met.”
The idea of managing COVID-19 at home stems from the success Rwanda achieved in the fight against malaria. There was a significant decline in malaria cases through the efforts of community health workers operating at grass root levels. Rwanda has over 60,000 community health workers. They play an important role in the provision of health care services as they are able to reach villagers in remote areas. Also, their ability to gain the confidence and trust of the people helps them to carry out their mission effectively.
The Community Health Program involves tracking and data collection. Home-based COVID-19 management has been tried and tested with encouraging results. The numbers of patients who have recovered from home-based care programs continue to rise in Kenya. However, health workers require proper training so that they don’t facilitate community transmission.