COVID-19 surge: Intensive care units, testing facilities not overstretched — GHS
The Ghana Health Service has debunked assertions that the country’s intensive care units (ICU) and testing facilities are overwhelmed by the increase in cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.
The GHS said currently, there were 13 empty ICU beds at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital of Ridge and more than 20 ICU beds at the Ga East Hospital.
At a media briefing in Accra yesterday, the Director General of the GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, said the situation was under control and that the government was hoping to expand both facilities using the COVID-19 Fund.
He was reacting to concerns that the ICUs at the main facilities managing COVID-19 cases were being overwhelmed with the surge in cases and a fear of the country suffering a third wave.
The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) had earlier warned that ICUs in Accra’s major hospitals were being overstretched as the country deals with a surge in COVID-19 cases.
The General Secretary of the GMA, Dr Justice Yankson, stated that hospitals in Ghana were not equipped enough to handle the fast-rising cases as the country was nearing a possible third wave.
“If you look at what is happening, our general numbers are also going up, and there are hotspots all over the place, not just in Accra, but in the Ashanti Region and other regions as well. So clearly, this could be the beginning of potentially another third wave.
The Ghana Infectious Disease Centre (GIDC) at the Ga East Municipal Hospital has also complained about the pressure on their ICUs.
The GIDC said its ICU designated for COVID-19 patients was fully occupied by patients while the ward for critical cases could not take on new cases.
The Acting Director of the centre, Dr Joseph Oliver-Commey, said apart from the ICU being overstretched, there was also not enough oxygen to administer to patients.
“The only reason why you can take patients into your ICU is when you have oxygen and adequate staff to handle them.
“At the moment we are constrained by lack of oxygen and it is not only the infectious disease centre, almost all the ICU centres are constrained by oxygen, including the use of high flow oxygen, very expensive that patients cannot afford,” Dr Commey indicated.
However, Dr Kuma-Aboagye emphasised that the ICUs were not overstretched and not only were there many empty beds for COVID-19 patients at ICUs across the country, but there was also enough oxygen to help manage the situation.
“We are not overwhelmed yet and we don’t hope to be. Our ICU beds are not full and there is enough oxygen for the current cases of COVID-19,” he emphasised at the media briefing.
The GHS Director General said the GHS had expanded testing for COVID-19, with the testing sites increased from two to 42 and all the facilities were able to test the various variants of COVID-19.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye, however, admitted that there was a worrying increase in the numbers and stressed the need for everyone to return to the strict adherence of the prescribed safety protocol to avoid plunging the country into a third wave.
He said as of July 11, 2021, the country had recorded 98,114 cases of COVID-19, with 144 cases recorded between July 1 and 11, compared to 100 cases recorded in the whole of June.
The GHS Director-General indicated that the Greater Accra and the Ashanti regions remained the hotspots for the disease in the country with 1,384 and 771 active cases respectively.
“And so yes, there is a surge and whether it is going to be the third wave or not depends on what we do. If we abide by the protocols, this can be averted,” he emphasised.
“We all have to adhere to the protocol. The handwashing, the mask-wearing, especially the workplaces, let’s make sure that we have done the decongestion, we have the sanitiser at the right places; the flow of people are also controlled.
“In schools, there should be a number of people dining at a time. We have said parents or people should not visit boarding schools, all to ensure that these things help us,” he stressed.
Cases in schools
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said from the positive cases recorded, 2,323 had been recorded in schools with a total of 363 schools recording incidents since January this year.
Currently, there are 166 active counts from the cases recorded, as the country experiences another surge in active cases of COVID-19 over the last four weeks with a case count of 2,512 as of July 11, 2021.
The DG of the GHS said the country was hopeful of reducing the number of severely ill patients by revamping its vaccination campaign in the coming weeks after administering a total of 1,271,393 doses, with 865,422 persons receiving at least one dose and 405,971 persons receiving two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
He said the country was expecting over 18 million doses of vaccines before the end of the year.
“We are expecting about 1.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX, about 250,000 AstraZeneca doses from COVAX and 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the African Union,” he disclosed.
He said in anticipation of the receipt of samples of these vaccines by July or August, the country had upgraded its ultra negative cold chain facilities.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye also mentioned that the country had received 1.7 million capacity storage facility to keep vaccines from Zipline and an additional 16 cold delivery fridges from UPS to be distributed among the regions of the country.