Colombo, August 6 (DailyMirror) – As a severe health crisis unfolds in Sri Lanka, the Health Ministry yesterday said that those who had tested positive for COVID-19 but were showing non-severe symptoms should stay home and seek treatment.
However medical doctors at the forefront of the pandemic said that while at home, patients should start hunting for beds in hospitals as the virus could take a sudden turn for the worse even on asymptomatic patients.
Deputy Director-General of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath told Daily Mirror that as more cases were expected in the coming days and weeks, those who had tested positive but were asymptomatic, should contact their area PHI or MOH officer immediately and self isolate inside the house.
The PHI or MOH officer will then visit your home and assess the situation as well as the home environment of the patient.
The officers will also see if the patient does not have any comorbidities and is not above the age of 60 years.
The officers will then check if the patient has a clear telephone connection, either a mobile device or a landline which can be kept free for when a doctor or health officer needs to get in touch with the patient. Once this is also available, approval will be granted to isolate at home.
The PHI or MOH officer will then put the patient in touch with doctors at a dedicated 24/7 call centre who will recommend what treatment should be followed.
If at any time, the patient develops symptoms, they have to inform the officers or doctors at the call centre who will transfer them to a hospital that has a bed available.
Many of the COVID-19 infected patients require oxygen at the moment and if breathing difficulties persist they should be rushed to the hospital immediately. Other symptoms which should be looked out for are fever, any flu-like illness, chills, diarrhoea or breathing difficulties and headache. Dr. Herath said that in parallel to COVID-19, dengue had also raised its head in the country, with similar symptoms, so in addition to a PCR, a dengue test was also recommended.
Sri Lanka has an estimated 80,000 beds island-wide for all sicknesses and had dedicated 33,000 beds kept exclusively for COVID-19 patients. There were another 10,000 beds kept in isolation wards which were also occupied presently to treat COVID19 patients.
However, health officials told Daily Mirror the existing situation was underplayed and even while home treatment on asymptomatic patients was recommended initially, people should start hunting for beds in case the patient requires immediate oxygen.
Presently, hospitals outside the Western Province was also filling up with grim pictures and videos of patients sleeping on floors at the main hospital, being circulated on social media. In Colombo private hospitals were also filled to the maximum with no beds available.
The situation, according to medical experts is expected to take a turn for the worse in the coming days with the government now in discussions to import oxygen and other urgent medical equipment. (Jamila Husain)