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April 6, 2020

Expo isolation centre to receive COVID-19 cases from today

Karachi

April 6, 2020

The Sindh Health Department announced late on Sunday night that the field hospital or isolation centre established at the Karachi Expo Centre will start receiving confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday.

The health department ordered all the district health officers of Karachi to send asymptomatic patients as well as those showing mild symptoms to the facility for keeping them in isolation and their treatment.

A notification issued by the department reads that all tertiary-care hospitals that are already treating novel coronavirus patients with moderate to severe symptoms are strictly advised to continue treating them in their isolation wards and critical care units.

The 1,200-bed field isolation hospital at the Expo Centre was set up in collaboration with the Pakistan Army’s Medical Corps as well as different welfare organisations. The authorities said they had decided to make the field hospital operational after finding most of the isolation beds at tertiary-care treatment facilities occupied by patients, leaving no more room for new cases.

“The isolation centre is an emergency setup, and it was decided that it would be used only in emergency situations,” a health department official told The News. “The isolation facility is now ready to be used after the training of paramedics and volunteers for handling coronavirus patients.”

The official said that at the moment, 200 beds are ready to accommodate COVID-19 patients with no or mild symptoms, adding that in the second phase, this facility can be extended to 600 beds within no time.

“The maximum capacity of this field isolation centre is 1,200 beds, and that can be achieved by adding beds to more halls of the Expo Centre.” Since February 26, as many as 881 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the province, including 517 in Karachi alone, while only mild to serious patients are being admitted to different hospitals in the city.

These health centres include the Ojha Hospital at the Dow University of Health Sciences, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, the Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, the Indus Hospital and a newly-established facility in the Gadap City locality.

The health department official told The News that due to the current lockdown and other factors, very few cases of coronavirus are being reported in Karachi. He feared that if the viral disease were to make its way to the squatter settlements of the city, it would spread like wildfire and there would be hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 patients a day.

“Our worst fear is the spread of coronavirus in the Katchi Abadis of the city where several people live in one- or two-room houses. These localities are densely populated,” he said. “People there are mostly illiterate and have no other place to go to avoid contracting or spreading the disease. Once cases in the Katchi Abadis start, there would be no stopping them.”

According to health officials, they currently have around 250 isolation beds at five public, semi-private and private health facilities in the city, while the number of ventilators is not more than three dozen.

They said that if patients were to start coming in from the slum areas of the city, these 250 isolation beds would be occupied in just a day or two. Earlier, officials managing the Expo isolation centre said they were “almost ready” to “switch on” the facility, as they had arranged 1,200 beds with two critical care units.

They added that the centre also had the facility of oxygen, but they were still facing the issue of personal protective equipment (PPE), which would be required “in abundance” to deal with COVID-19 patients.

“Although this facility is ready to go operational any moment, as we have arranged most of the equipment and expertise to deal with confirmed coronavirus patients, we are still worried about PPE,” an official had said.

“We need PPE in abundance, as they would be discarded every time a doctor or paramedic leaves the isolation hall, requiring fresh ones, and so we need these supplies pouring in like running water.”

The officials said they had received huge quantities of medicines and other required stuff, while scores of volunteers and welfare organisations had come forward to support the patients and the staff deployed at the isolation centre.

Three meals a day

The Saylani Welfare Trust has offered to provide meals three times a day to the staff and patients at the isolation facility, while they would also help meet several other requirements, including medicines and PPE, an official said.

Health department officials said the Essa Laboratory has established its mobile lab offering basic screenings of patients other than coronavirus testing to help doctors ascertain the condition of the patients. They added that serious patients, who would be requiring life support, would be taken to other hospitals of the city, including the Ojha campus of the Dow University.