NHS ministry to expedite Covid-19 hospital in anticipation of dengue virus outbreak

Updated May 29 2020

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Dedicated facility for Covid-19 patients to be completed in four to six weeks to avoid choking existing hospitals. — AFP/File
Dedicated facility for Covid-19 patients to be completed in four to six weeks to avoid choking existing hospitals. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Expecting a spike in cases of the dengue virus, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has decided to expedite the construction of a dedicated facility for Covid-19 patients in Chak Shahzad.

Last year, outbreaks of the dengue virus were reported Rawalpindi and Islamabad, with more than 13,000 cases in the capital alone. Of the 10,118 cases in Punjab, almost 60pc were in Rawalpindi.

An NHS ministry official who was not authorised to speak on the record said a large number of cases could be reported in the twin cities this year, as dengue prevention efforts such as fumigation were not carried out.

“We need to take major steps or it will be impossible to avoid choking hospitals,” he said.

By constructing the new facility for Covid-19 patients, hospitals will be able to accommodate both Covid-19 and dengue patients at the same time without choking isolation centres.

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) Joint Executive Director Dr Minhajus Siraj told Dawn that Medical Ward II was the first part of the hospital to be turned into a Covid-19 isolation ward.

Dedicated facility for Covid-19 patients to be completed in four to six weeks to avoid choking existing hospitals, Pims ED says

“However, soon that isolation ward — which has 30 beds — was filled and it was decided to convert the hospital’s private ward into an isolation ward as well, and 50 beds were placed in that ward. We currently have 45 patients in the hospital, but dengue season has begun and we have been expecting a spike in the next four weeks, due to which a new ward will have to be established in the hospital to avoiding choking the isolation wards,” he said.

He added that dengue is not as serious of an issue as Covid-19, because the dengue virus spreads through mosquitoes while the coronavirus spreads from human to human transmission.

Dengue virus patients face a deficiency of platelets and the transfusion of platelets is needed as patients’ blood does not retain its normal clotting ability.

If timely treatment is not provided, the disease can turn into life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, which may lead to bleeding, low platelet levels and blood plasma leakage or to dengue shock syndrome, in which blood pressure is dangerously low.

Pakistan has experienced many outbreaks of dengue since the first in 1994.

There were three major outbreaks in the last 20 years — in 2005, more than 6,000 cases with 52 deaths were reported in Karachi, after which 21,000 cases and 350 deaths were reported in Lahore in 2011.

More than 48,000 laboratory confirmed cases of dengue virus were reported in Pakistan between 2011 and 2014, and more than 50,000 cases and 100 deaths were reported in 2019.

Dr Siraj said that a meeting was held at the NHS ministry on Thursday to discuss the construction of a dedicated hospital for Covid-19 patients.

“The 250-bed hospital is being constructed in Chak Shahzad. It was decided to complete construction in the next four to six weeks, as we also have to deal with dengue patients,” he said.

“Although dengue does not spread from human to human, patients do need beds and treatment. We will also require human resources to deal with both diseases, and we have been making arrangements for that,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2020