Coronavirus: The compelling role of both private, public clinicians

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THE coronavirus pandemic is surely a nightmare for the populace. While many people visualise coronavirus as a creature in the atmosphere or some stratosphere, the reality on the ground shows significant deficiency of knowledge about the virus.

Confusion runs everywhere about containment and mitigation. How are we going to ascertain the magnitude and gravity of the pandemic if the public health system is not strengthened?

We do not want to be overzealous, but careful analysis of what needs to be done will be a noble thing if we are to stand with our chests up.

Health facilities can be death grounds or contamination centres if we are talking of contagious diseases. Highly transmissible viruses like COVID-19 can take advantage of poorly-capacitated theatres, clinics or hospitals to ravage both patients, relatives and staff as it is common knowledge that whoever becomes sick from any ailment is rushed to medical centres for attention.

As coronavirus spreads fast through coughing, sneezing or contact with affected areas, it is thus prudent that hospitals and clinics have adequate protective clothing in a bid to control nosocomial infections.

If extra care is not taken, medical staff can become the worst group of people to be affected and there will be a medical catastrophe in our country as the spread of the virus can be incendiary since most patients base their hopes on the medical staff.

It is, therefore, my plea that all medical staff operating in our beloved country be conscientised about the precautions, actions and steps to be followed on suspicion of coronavirus.

So many myths, stories, lies, misconceptions, ideas have been brought forward which will not help our country at all. The calamity is just knocking on our door, with serious aggression that threatens the political, economic, social environments.

I was at one of the district hospitals recently and my ears wished I had cerumen impaction so that I could not hear what the clinicians were saying about coronavirus.

Totally lost! We do not want to imagine the coronavirus spreading from health centres as they can become the natural habitat of the notorious germs. We need conspicuous and discernible treatment guidelines at all health centres if the battle is to be won.

Segregating against private practitioners will be detrimental to a strong fight against the coronavirus as most patients first call and consult their general practitioners. It is judicious to support both the public and private health practices at the moment. If government and the donor community can chip in with training and capacitation of all medical centres at the moment, the better.

Basic protective clothing can be donated to all practitioners including sanitisers, masks and gloves. We are all fighting the same war, we have to win it. How then can we contain it if advanced countries like Italy, the United States and France are struggling to contain it?

Italy has been losing an average of 300 people everyday for the past few days, high enough to cause congestion at cemeteries in the capital city where every 30 minutes, a burial will need to be done. The US has lost more than 102 people now with all the 50 states having confirmed cases. Where are we heading now?

I was going through some social media rants where other people were downplaying the gravity of the coronavirus, with inept arguments that it is not the only killer in the world and that the world has no reason to panic because we have other diseases like malaria, TB, hypertension which have been ravaging.

Yes, you say that, but remember the above-mentioned diseases are global chronic conditions which do not come as outbreaks.

Outbreaks like coronavirus have no clear destiny. In 1918, what started as mere flu in Spain after the First World War went on to kill close to 50 million people, or 2,7% of the global population. In 1968-69, there was the Hong Kong flu that killed between one million and four million people and the 1977 to 1978 Russian flu massacred about 700 000 people.

That’s the unfortunate part of pandemics because they can spread to even wipe a significant percentage of the population until we lose count.

In short, the war against coronavirus in Zimbabwe can be won if both private and public practitioners team up against this scourge.

Resources, training should be availed to all clinicians. Workshops should be urgently done to capacitate practitioners. This should not be the work of government doctors or nurses alone.

Together we stand ready to defend our Zimbabwe.

 Johannes Marisa is a medical practitioner, educationist and public health practitioner who is the interim president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe