In a bid to decongest hospitals and prevent health workers from being overwhelmed, the Kenyan government on Thursday, June 5th announced plans to develop safe home care services for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients and their contacts.

The statement, which was made by Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary, Mutahi Kagwe, states that the rise in COVID-19 infected persons has become a problem for both the government and health workers.

Kagwe said the Mbagathi and Kenyatta University hospitals have reached  full capacity and many of the confirmed cases are asymptomatic and can be managed from home. The Kenyatta University Teaching Referral and Research Hospital, a 300-bed facility, has only three beds left.

As of Thursday, Busia County, Alupe Isolation Centre, which can only accommodate 71 patients, is overflowing with 98 patients. As a result, many people who are in various isolation facilities will be released to be taken care of at home. This makes home-based care, the only way to control the high numbers the country is already registering.

“If this is implemented, it would free our health facilities from congestion. We’re looking into developing home-based and community care, provided that it’s in accordance with World Health Organisation protocols, which we’re currently reviewing and domesticating in line with our situation,” Mr Kagwe said.

However, the major challenge is whether this strategy is practical and sustainable. By implementing home-based care protocols, there are concerns about how people in poor neighbourhoods are going to adapt given their living conditions.

The World Health Organization (WHO)  protocol states that the ability of individuals and families to isolate themselves at home will depend on the type of house or shelter a person resides. WHO also states that to achieve home-based isolation, a separate ventilated bedroom is required where the person can recover without sharing immediate space with others.

In accordance with WHO guidelines, quarantined or self-isolated persons should have access to ventilated single rooms, with a dedicated toilet, hand hygiene and washing facilities. Where this cannot be achieved, mitigation measures shall be put in place in order, to the extent possible, comply.

Nevertheless, the WHO has set certain measures of isolation for those living in shelters or overcrowded settings.  Such people are expected to follow the guidance provided by the Ministry of Health on how to self-isolate, assuming they are well enough and do not require hospitalization.

So far, over 2,340 people tested positive for the new coronavirus while 78 people have been confirmed dead in Kenya.

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