Patients cry for help as access to health facilities remain cut off

Monday June 1 2020

Heavy rains have destroyed roads and bridges

Heavy rains have destroyed roads and bridges connecting Northern and Western regions with other parts of the country. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Access to healthcare and medical supplies have been stopped in North and Western parts of the country after heavy rains destroyed bridges and roads connecting the region with other parts of the country.

At least six health centers have been cut off from referral hospitals in Ngororero district while regular patients transfers are impossible for some 13 health facilities in Nyabihu, Gakenke and Muhanga Districts.

This has also made access to medical supplies impossible because ambulances and other vehicles are still stuck pending removal of mudslides, and subsequent repair works on the affected road networks.

“For now there is no access at all for ambulance or any other means of transport. It is particularly difficult for pregnant mothers who need to be attended to at the hospital,” said Victoria Mukambibi who works with Janja health center in Gakenke District.

Hilly terrain

“We are advising expectant mothers to arrange to walk to Shyira hospital ahead of critical days, but still there are those who may not make it because the distance is too long on a hilly terrain,” she added.

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Janja health center is one of a 15 health facilities transferring patients to Shyira hospital, a district-level facility in the remote Nyabihu.

Dr Teogene Bazimaziki, acting director general of Shyira Hospital told Rwanda Today that critical patients cases from cut off health centres were using traditional means, while hospital referrals require that the Musanze-based Ruhengeri hospital sends its ambulances on the other side of the bridge to transfer patients.

The same arrangement applied to medical supplies destined for the hospital from Musanze town and Kigali.

“Some repair works are being done to find a solution. For now, we would say we are in position to avert any potential care crisis despite use of vehicles still hampered,” he said.

Heavy rains in the area eased recently, allowing deployment of earthmovers to start clearing debris and start of temporarily repair activities, according to local officials.

In Ngororero District, roads Kazabe-Kavumu, and Kabaya-Rubaya linking over 13 remote health centers to two biggest hospitals namely Muhororo Hospital and Kabaya Hospital are completely impassable as the focus is on restoring traffic to the national road linking the district to the rest of the country.

Repair works

Jean Marie Vianney Muganza, district health officer told Rwanda Today that cut off health centers would be reconnected soon after a team from central government that came to assess the situation resolved that repair works on two of the six destroyed bridges be expedited.

Like in other districts, residents in the area said visits to the referrals district healthcare facilities were only possible on foot or by use of traditional wooden beds locally known as Ingobyi.

The Ministry of Health did not respond to our questions but Ministry of infrastructures confirmed that the assessment of damages was still ongoing across all the affected sectors, and repair plans would be communicated once compilation of data is completed.

“The assessment is still underway. Once teams submit report to minister we organise a press conference for that specific topic,” the ministry said.

Ministry of Emergency Management earlier indicated that a post-disaster need assessment would soon start to help draw a recovery strategy.

The ministry data put the death toll from the rains that hit since April 1 at over 160 people while at least 172 were injured. The rains left 9,251 people displaced.

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