Covid-19 puts hospitals on alert, but where are tools?

Friday March 13 2020

Temperature measurement is one of the processes to go through at all border entries to Rwanda. Photo | Cyril NDEGEYA


As coronavirus spreads rapidly across the world, the government has in recent weeks intensified campaigns to protect the public from being exposed to the deadly disease.

However, the country's healthcare system largely remains exposed due to lack of essential facilities needed to fight such diseases.

For instance, currently the country faces an inadequate and limited supply of well-equipped Intensive Care Units (ICU) to care for the critically ill patients. According to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC),  one in five patients of COVID-19 may need ICU during treatment

Most will have no or mild illness but maybe six in seven will need hospital admission with the majority requiring a computerised tomography (CT) scan.

Currently, across the country there are  approximately 50 critical care beds including ICU beds and high dependency beds.

A recent mini-survey by Rwanda Today at the teaching, referral and district hospitals showed that King Faisal Hospital — the national referral — has the highest number of hospital beds with only 14 ICU beds.


The University teaching hospital of Kigali, the second largest is equipped with seven adult ICU beds and three beds for children while Kanombe Military hospital and Butare teaching hospital each has five beds.

The situation could be worse in rural areas, where shortages of skilled health professionals and emergency facilities are evident.

The Ministry of Health is prioritising strengthen surveillance and training of health staff. But the country still faces a critical shortage of the required equipment, among them oxygen cylinders. In addition, there is a shortage of critical care specialists in ICUs.

“As we strengthen preparedness against COVID- 19 the Ministry of Health is now setting up guidelines to ensure that even the one's available stay in their quality form as we look for how to even increase the number,” said Zuberi Muvunyi, director general of Clinical and Public Health Services at the Ministry of Health.

He added that the government is planning to increase capacity to ensure provision of quality service to terminally ill patients. “It is not easy for Rwanda and even other African countries to have enough ICU beds that can fully handle cases of COVID-19, but what we can assure the public that we are doing everything possible in our efforts to remain vigilant on the virus preparedness,”  said Dr. Muvunyi.

But speaking to Rwanda Today, director of Communication at Rwanda Biomedical Centre Julien Niyingabira said there is a quarantine site in Kabgayi Muhanga District in the southern province with the capacity to receive between 250 and 300 patients.

“Response emergency teams have been deployed throughout the country at emergency hospitals with the capacity to diagnose and provide first aid treatment to any suspected patient with COVID-19 pandemic virus,”

A communiqué by the Ministry of Health together with Rwanda Biomedical Centre shows that in the City of Kigali the set emergency hospitals are University Teaching Hospital of Kigali, King Faisal Hospital, Rwanda Military Hospital, Kacyiru District Hospital, Muhima District hospital, and Inkuru Nziza Orthopedic Pediatric Hospital.