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Lack of medical staff and equipment in al-Suwayda increases risk of COVID-19 spreading and people initiate civil solutions

Editing: Mohamad Alaa |
Translation: Nouha Salti
Publication date: 2020/04/08 10:52

Al-Suwayda - SMART

The al-Suwayda governorate suffers from lack of medical staff and equipment in hospitals, amidst fears of an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). Precautionary procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 caused an economic crisis among the governorate’s residents as a result of high prices, which led several people to launch initiatives to support each other in the absence of the role of the Syrian government’s institutions.

Medical equipment in numbers:

A medical source reported to SMART that the al-Suwayda National Hospital suffers from the lack of resident doctors, as one resident doctor covers all shifts of five departments over the week. The source added that the number of staff nurses is not sufficient as well, forcing the health directorate to regularly send nurses from medical centers of the governorate to the hospital.

The source also said that the post-anesthesia care unit includes only ten beds and lacks PCR machines, which are used to detect coronavirus (SARS-Cov 2) and CAT scan machine.

The source mentioned that the hospital also lacks basic medical equipment, including face masks, gloves, and sanitizers, to protect employees and medical workers, in addition to the lack of certain medicine and intravenous fluids.

Other medical sources reported to SMART that the al-Suwayda National Hospital includes 18 ventilators, the Salkhad Hospital includes four ventilators, and the al-Enayah Hospital includes one ventilator, while other hospitals in the governorate lack ventilators.

There are four public hospitals in the al-Suwayda governorate, which are the al-Suwayda National Hospital, Saleh Hospital, Shahba Hospital, and Salkhad Hospital, in addition to three private hospitals, which are, al-Salam, al-Enaya, and al-Mazra’a.

Institutes in al-Suwayda are not prioritizing preparations to prevent spread of COVID-19:

The COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in the world and several countries prepared quarantines to isolate patients. Some countries built hospitals to deal with the outbreak within days. The Syrian government institutions in al-Suwayda are still floundering to allocate building for quarantining patients in case the disease spreads.  

Medical sources reported to SMART that the governorate council allocated the Saleh Hospital in the eastern al-Suwayda countryside, to receive patients in case the disease spreads, while the al-Suwayda education directorate allocated its training center in the city of al-Suwayda to receive patients with 103 beds.  

Resident of the city of al-Suwayda were surprised after the city’s National Hospital evacuated entire departments in the hospital to isolate suspected patients, amidst discontent among the people and the hospital staff of randomness and lack of coordination and organization by taking such a procedure.

A patient escort expressed his discontent regarding this procedure, as he was surprised that his brother, who suffers from pneumonia, was transferred to the gastroenterology department. When the escort acquired about the matter, a nurse informed him that the hospital’s management transferred patients in the departments of pulmonology, neurology, and endocrinology, to gastroenterology department in preparation to receive patients with COVID-19.

A nurse in the hospital complained about chaos due to gathering all patients and medical staff in one department, adding that large number of people inside and the short distance separating the department from test room might increase the risk of the spread of the disease.

Are there any cases in al-Suwayda?

A medical source said that no cases of COVID-19 were recorded so far in the governorate, adding that they suspected dozens of cases after they entered from Lebanon via illegal routes, and sent their samples for testing, and the results were negative.

The source mentioned that the samples were taken from the suspected patients’ throat and were sent to the Health Ministry’s Reference Laboratory in Damascus. The test results take between 24 to 72 hours to show, according to the source.

Prices of face masks and alcohol sanitizers increase:

Prices of medical materials, which are used to prevent the spread of COVID-19, increased in all markets and pharmacies in the al-Suwayda governorate.

A source from the Health Directorate reported to SMART that the price of locally-made small medical face mask should not exceed 80 Syrian pounds and the large mask 125 SYP, while imported masks should not exceed 150 SYP.

SMART monitored the prices and found that locally-made small masks are sold for 200 SYP and large masks are sold for 400 SYP, while imported masks are sold for 600 SYP.

The price of alcohol has also increased, as the price of one liter of concentrated alcohol (95 percent) increased from 1,000 SYP to 3,500 SYP.

Fear of COVID-19 freezes the market and increases prices:

The Syrian government decisions and procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 caused a stagnation in the markets and an increase in prices. The preventive procedures included a from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, and preventing movement between cities after 2:00 pm.

Residents and traders reported to SMART that the curfew paralyzed markets and commercial stores, except for those of food and vegetables, which became in high demand by people in an attempt to save basic needs.

The price of infant formula rose from 2,500 SYP to 5,000 SYP, wipes rose from 8,000 SYP to 20,000 SYP, while the price of potato rose from 400 to 900 SYP and garlic to 5,000 instead of 1,200 SYP.

Although smoking contributes to an increased risk of infection, the tobacco of hookah rose in price from 700 to 1,500 SYP.

This increase in prices coincides with the deterioration of the SYP against the United States dollar, especially after the announcement of cases in Syria. The SYP exchange rate against the USD rose from 1,000 SYP to 1300 SYP.

Civil initiatives of social solidarity fight the disease

People of al-Suwayda started initiatives and social solidarity actions amongst themselves in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Local sources reported to SMART that several agricultural tractor owners donated their equipment and time to support the city council in its campaign to sterilize streets, schools, and public places, and that the local people donated most of the chlorine substance used in the process.

A source from the al-Suwayda Firefighting Department reported that the campaign will continue for 15 days.

Rich people provided the city’s poor families with food supplies, while grocers sold vegetables and fruits at cost price, and several store owners allocated free goods for families with limited income.

Also, the Jozour Syria Organization distributed hundreds of liters of chlorine and other sanitizers to people and deployed volunteers to the city’s neighborhoods to train them on how to use the sanitizers, face masks, and gloves. The volunteers helped raise people’s awareness about hygiene, public sanitation, and ways to prevent the spread of the disease.

One mobile phone trading company closed its offices and spread its employees in the near neighborhoods, delivering grocery orders for people to encourage them to stay home and social distance themselves.

On Dec. 31, 2019, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spread in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The virus has infected about 1,500,000 people until April 8, 2020 in more than 206 countries, about 84,000 of them died, according to the (Worldmeteres).

COVID-19 is an infectious disease, caused by SARS-CoV-2, that spread from person-to-person and by respiratory droplets. These droplets fall on surrounding surfaces, so other people could be infected when they touch these surfaces by touching their eyes, noses, or mouths. People could be infected if they inhale droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it is important to keep a one-meter distance (three feet) away from infected people.

Infection symptoms include body aches, blocked nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. The symptoms begin as mild and develop gradually. Some people become infected without showing any symptoms and without feeling ill. About 80% of infected people recover from the disease without any special treatment.