Algerian hospitals are running out of oxygen and vital equipment as case counts continue to rise.
Rabat – Brave healthcare professionals in Algeria are struggling to cope with stress and equipment shortages amid an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Heavy workloads and shortages of vital resources are pushing hospital staff to their limits. Algeria’s second wave of COVID-19 infections is ravaging the national healthcare system, with symptomatic patients sent home.
With hundreds of new cases everyday, the crisis is pushing the healthcare system to the brink of collapse, Director General of Algeria’s National Institute of Public Health Lyes Rahal has said.
Medical personnel and patients are becoming the victims of a lack of decisive government action in the face of a national health crisis.
Hospitals across Algeria are facing a daunting task. COVID-19 is spreading in Algerian communities with little effective response from the government. At the current rate, hospitals could soon face more patients than they have beds. Healthcare workers are needing to ask patients to sleep on mattresses on the floor and oxygen is literally running out.
“I’ve been waiting for my turn since 9am,” a patient in his forties told El Watan newspaper, adding that “it really plays on morale to witness the suffering of all these people, especially since I am chronically ill.” The high-risk COVID-19 patient was shocked to discover a coffin near the entrance of the hospital’s consultation area.
“It probably contains a dead person, depending on the situation, we will all go to the morgue,” he said.
The lack of available oxygen is highly problematic. Citizens are left to buy respiratory devices themselves as hospitals are unable to serve both COVID-19 patients and regular patients who suffer from respiratory diseases. A university teacher told newspaper Liberte Algerie he was faced with a $930 bill to buy a respiratory device for his neighbor’s mother. Unable to afford such an expense, the woman died before her family could rent or buy a device to save her.
Bravery and despair
Lacking government support while facing a national calamity, Algeria’s healthcare professionals have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their valiant fight against COVID-19. Facing burnouts and mental health stress themselves, they continue to sacrifice themselves to save their patients.
Relatives of patients confuse the government’s inability to provide equipment as a fault of medical staff. Frustrated relatives who are watching their loved ones suffer in despair have attacked and disrespectfully treated medical professionals.
“We haven’t had a break since last March,” a doctor in tears told El Watan. “With the departure of the residents and without reinforcement of the medical staff, the situation will risk breaking out.” Medical professionals have been begging their superiors and government officials for much needed support, to little avail.
Patients sent home
The disastrous shortages of staff and equipment in Algeria’s healthcare system is resulting in symptomatic COVID-19 patients being sent home. Without sufficient doctors and equipment, a triage process that only treats the most severe cases has become the norm.
A teacher in Mohamed Boudiaf Hospital in El Khroub described his severe COVID-19 symptoms to El Watan before stating, “the doctor judged that my case does not require hospitalization, he prescribed a treatment for ten days with a confinement of 14 days at home.”
The Director-General of the Health Services department of the Ministry of Health, Professor Lyes Rahal, stated that Algeria’s hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. “The biggest problem currently is the flow of patients,” he told Liberte Algerie. COVID-19 patients are filling up capacity while patients suffering from other diseases or accidents also require care.
Not only is Algeria’s regime failing its medical personnel, it is actively helping the virus spread, some claim. Professor Kamel Bouzid of the Mustapha University Hospital in Algiers pointed to the national referendum campaign as the source of the rapid spread.
The government’s insistence to organize a national referendum campaign in the midst of a spiralling epidemic constitutes a superspreader event, according to Bouzid. “We saw various press conferences where there were between 600 and 1000 people without wearing bibs and without physical distancing,” he said. “So now, in the first week following this farce, we pay,” the professor told online news site Esseha.
“This is not a second wave contrary to what has been said, but the continuation of the pandemic which began in March,” Bouzid explained.
Now, brave medical staff whose government has abandoned them face a medical catastrophe unfolding before their eyes. Lacking protective equipment, they risk infection on a daily basis while their personal mental health is battered by a daily chorus of despair.
Citizens have given the government what it wanted in its constitutional referendum. Thousands of patients and healthcare professionals now need Algeria’s regime to focus on its people and muster a proper national response to COVID-19.