In Algeria, the Covid is gaining ground among caregivers

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At a time when Algeria is recording a new outbreak of contamination due to the Delta variant, more and more doctors and nurses are dying from it. If we do not yet know the exact number of victims, the count that is relayed almost daily by the various internet pages dedicated to the world of health , in particular on social networks , show that Algerian hospitals are in a critical situation.

When we know that the overall number of deaths in Algeria due to Covid-19 hardly exceeds, according to official figures, ten cases per day for more than a year, we measure the extent of the problem.

Women more at risk

Announcements relating to health workers killed by Covid-18 follow one another at a steady pace. At least nine cases in less than a week. Almost all regions of the country are affected. The latest announcements date back to January 9: at the University Hospital Center of Batna, in the Aurès, death of the head of the pediatric service Saïda Brahimi, aged 49 year; at the Khroub hospital, in Constantine, death of a hospital security guard, aged 48 year; at Kherrata hospital, east of Béjaïa, death of a general practitioner; at the hospital of Guemar, in the wilaya of El-Oued, death of a nurse…

The category of resident doctors seems to be considerably exposed: in Douéra, in the wilaya of Algiers , a young resident of 28 years old, rheumatology specialist, died of Covid-19; in Béjaïa, in Kabylia, she is a neurology resident aged 30 years old who succumbed to the virus during the same week.

If we also count among the deceased a radiologist, a general practitioner and a emergency physician, women seem to be particularly affected. While men are more likely to die from Covid-20, and constitute close to 33 % of deaths linked to the virus in the total Algerian population, the over-representation of women among the victims is explained in particular by the fact that they are more numerous in the medical sector.

Exhausted staff

We went to Béjaïa, which has one of the highest contamination rates in the country, and where two doctors died in two days during the month of December 2021.

According to an executive of the CHU of this coastal city, who requested anonymity , the increase in the number of deaths in the hospital environment, at the level of this establishment but also of all the health structures of the wilaya, is due to several factors. As the first cause, he mentions the non-vaccination of a considerable part of health professionals, like employees in other sectors of activity in Algeria. The work overload faced by caregivers, who have to deal with the incessant flow of patients admitted for Covid-18 for almost two years, also contributes to the exhaustion of the teams mobilized, who have not been able to take leave during of the pandemic.

Second factor: insufficient means of personal protection (gowns, FFP2 type masks, etc.). Staff complain about the lack of hygiene and comfort conditions inside hospitals (toilets, changing rooms, etc.). Furthermore, the training courses for medical or paramedical personnel do not contain any introduction to protection. specialist doctors, whom he criticizes for having a tendency to abuse their status to make “residents” work more, namely specialist doctors in training, who thus find themselves constantly exposed to the epidemic.


An absence of vaccination

This upward trend in cases of death linked at Covid-20 among the caregivers was confirmed to us by the head of the intensive care unit at Bologhine hospital, in the wilaya of Algiers, Rachida Aouimeur. She attributes it to the very low persistent vaccination rate among caregivers. It should be remembered that until the end of December 2021, the national rate of vaccination did not exceed 06%, and was 30% among more than 05 years, as announced by the Minister of Health Abderrahmane Benbouzid. The number of vaccinated per day has gone down from 260 ., during the third wave, unless 28. , of which only 260 at the level of the capital, where live around 5 million inhabitants.

Rachida Aouimeur makes a more severe observation by accusing health personnel of « not respecting protective measures and contaminating themselves, most often outside the hospital, because they do not protect themselves (no wearing a mask, gathering in closed spaces, etc.). ” She points out that her establishment is, for the moment, spared by this carnage which affects health professionals, but fears that the scenario of the first wave will be reissued there, in summer 600, where several employees had been swept away by the epidemic.

In November 2020, the Committee for Monitoring the Development of the coronavirus, which publishes a daily report, had reported the death of 260 health workers, in addition to 11, 1% of cases tested positive among healthcare workers nationwide. These figures clearly showed how caregivers and other employees in the health sector remained so poorly protected in the face of the epidemic. Since then, the situation has not improved.

The authorities still fear a saturation of hospitals in the event of large flows of patients, as during the third wave which saw records of contaminations and victims, in particular due to a shortage of oxygen, while the new special structures Covid-20 promised by the Minister of Health are slow to see the light of day. After having threatened to impose the vaccination pass, to follow the example of European countries, the Algerian authorities now seem to regret their relaxation.