Rwanda pilots home-based management for Covid-19 cases

A medical staff conducts random Covid-19 tests at Amahoro Stadium site in Remera, Kigali on July 2. / Photo: File.

The Ministry of Health is testing whether community-based management for Covid-19 is feasible in the country, with the possibility of using it to manage the pandemic.

Home-based management for Covid-19 is not very new.

 

Neighbouring Kenya is using it to ease the burden of excess patients admitted in hospitals, creating room for patients who need critical care.

 

As of Monday August 10, Rwanda had slightly over 2000 confirmed cases (of which only 753 are active), there have not been reports of the country’s healthcare system being stressed by the pandemic; however local medics are planning ahead in case the situation changes.

 

“Some countries have already tried implementing home-based management of Covid-19. We think about it and we are planning accordingly,” said Dr Daniel Ngamije, the Minister of Health.

The Minister disclosed this during an event where he was receiving protective equipment from the US government last week.

The Minister for Health, Dr Daniel Ngamije, speaks during the reception of personal protective equipment donated by the US government to Rwanda on Thursday, July 30. Photo: Craish Bahizi.

“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,” he added.

Dr Ngamije said that if the system is to be used, the government will equip Community Health Workers (CHWs) with skills and the necessary protective equipment so that they can safely go about the business dealing with the pandemic.

The Minister expressed confidence in what the health workers can do, reiterating that they are used to intervening at community levels where they carry out different activities,

“Today we know that countrywide we have thousands of CHWs treating malaria using rapid diagnostic tests. With covid-19, we don’t have antigen-based tests yet, but soon we may get them,” he said.

“We are already trying to validate some of these antigen-based tests from South Korea. We believe that in the coming months, we may be able to procure sufficient numbers of these tests and train CHWs; as well protecting them (giving them protective gear),” Dr Ngamije said, adding that they (the ministry) have sufficient protective equipment to ensure that the health workers will be well protected from Covid-19.

Without divulging details, he said that there are some guidelines for the inclusion criteria for individuals or communities to be part of the home-based management of Covid-19.

For Kenya’s case, home care mainly deals with asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients. The neighbouring country has also trained up to 37,000 health workers.

Currently, Rwanda has about 60,000 Community Health Workers mainly assisting in the malaria fight.

Their interventions in local communities have been hailed as one of the measures that have seen the country reduce malaria in its population.

The number of recorded malaria cases reduced from 4.6 million in 2016 to 3.5 million in 2019 countrywide while those who contracted severe malaria reduced from 18,000 in 2015/2016 to 7,000 in 2018/2019.

The number of malaria deaths reduced from 660 in 2015/2016 to 264 in 2018/2019.

Meanwhile, the Kenyan government recently hailed the impact of the home-based care program in the fight against COVID-19, as their number of recoveries continued to increase.

hkuteesa@newtimesrwanda.com

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