- Published: 20 October 2014
- Written by New Zim
AN ambulance crew from Kwekwe recently made good their escape after learning that an emergency they had been summoned to involved a suspected case of Ebola while doctors in the city also refused to attend the patient fearing they would contract the disease, it has emerged.
The incident, which occurred in the Midlands city two weeks ago, revealed how ill-prepare the province was for any Ebola emergency, Provincial Medical Director, Dr Milton Chemhuru said.
The case involved a woman who had visited TB Joshua's church in Nigeria. She sparked a panic after telling her husband she was suffering from a headache and a fever adding she was also vomiting blood.
Said Dr Chemhuru: "We don't have the capacity to deal with the Ebola scare as Midlands.
"Let me just talk about why I am saying we don't have the capacity. Just last week on Thursday, a small incident, somebody visited the famous TB Joshua in Nigeria at the beginning of July and came back to Zimbabwe on 19 July.
"It's a lady, 24 years old, nine weeks pregnant and she is married. So last Thursday she told the husband I am vomiting blood, headache fever.
"So the husband called EMRAS and they came. When EMRAS came, the first thing they asked, ‘have you been to Nigeria, Sierra Leone or Equatorial Guinea?' The woman said yes and the ambulance crew said ‘aah' and ran away."
Dr Chemhuru said around 10PM, he received a call from Kwekwe District Hospital Superintendent, Dr Patricia Mapanda, who said they had a suspected case of Ebola and all members of her team were not willing to attend to it.
Health personal refuse to attend
"The first thing you ask when you hear about Ebola the most important thing is you ask whether anyone has been in contact with the patient or person suspected to have Ebola or from an epidemic area.
"Dr Mapanda said there is a woman had been to Nigeria recently. She said she intended to call an ambulance from Harare to come and pick the patient.
"I said no, not yet ... have you verified that indeed you have an Ebola case. She said none of her guys were willing to go there. I told her can we verify whether the woman was indeed in Nigeria by taking a look at her passport.
"Dr Mapanda said ‘Doc I don't have protective clothing'. I told the guy you are just going to look at the passport without touching the patient. It was like drama as we debated the whole night," said Dr Chemhuru.
He said a junior doctor argued that he understood they were not supposed to be within a distance of 21meters from the patient.
Dr Chemhuru said the situation was only saved by Kwekwe City Council Director of Health, Dr Phyllis Gochera, who volunteered to attend the case.
"When she got there, Dr Gochera found the husband sleeping in a separate room. She checked the woman's passport and found that the woman now had over 82 days since she left Nigeria.
"Obviously she did not have the disease as you know after 21 days of your coming from an epidemic area and you are still well then it means you haven't contracted the disease.
Case turned out a hoax
"It turned out that the young wife just wanted to get attention from the husband. For us to control the disease, we need to be aggressive and vigilant.
"We have to take drastic measures when dealing with diseases like Ebola, there are no negotiations because people die. The most important thing to remember is that this is a disease cause through contact with the affected person, the person's excretions or sweat, among other body discharges," he said.
Dr Chemhuru said the Midlands has so far distributed 52 suits that it distributed to all its eight districts and there was also an ambulance especially meant to attend to Ebola cases.
He said the country's challenge remained the mobility of Zimbabweans who are always travelling to regional countries and beyond.
"We are monitoring cases of new arrivals as Ministry of Health. If we hear of suspected cases the person should not move until further notice.
"I am proposing that we build a detention centre in a place like Harare where we can detain people for 21 days before they can be allowed back to the community.
"If we allow people to do as they please, we will all perish because this disease is deadly," said Dr Chemhuru.
The Ebola outbreak started in Guinea in West Africa and has now spread to three other West African countries namely; Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal as well as unrelated outbreaks in the DRC Equatorial region.
The World Health Organisation has since declared the outbreak an International Public Health Emergency.