Isolation resources to tackle COVID-19 within Vanuatu are meagre but health officials are making the most of the country’s resources.

Currently there are a total of eight beds in the isolation facility to cater for eight patients at a time. There are two other rooms available if needed, both of these can accommodate more beds. Overall, the isolation facilities can cater for 12 people. There are seven ventilators available, five donated by China and two in the ward. One ventilator requires four staff on three shifts. 

There are plans in place to utilise Korman Stadium as the Isolation Facility for individuals who test positive for COVID-19, in case of a mass community transmission. The biggest hurdle for the Isolation Ward is security, regulating movement in and out of the compound in order to cater to the patients and securing staff working in the facility who have to leave in a close by premises or be in quarantine themselves.

ICU and Isolation Nurse, Noella Remy reports that the hospital is as prepared as it can possibly be to tackle this pandemic. However, it cannot facilitate large numbers of people at a time so the hospital is focusing on public-health and prevention. Thus, it is essential for people to recognise the set health measures and abide by rules during lockdowns.

Talks of where to place isolation facilities in the rural areas of Efate are yet to occur. Currently Paunangisu is the potential area but no official arrangements have been made at this point considering logistics of such a development in that area is unlikely at this time.

To date Vanuatu had identified three positive cases in quarantine, all have been housed in the isolation facility. At this point the country still has some form of control over the pandemic situation considering a close call with the deceased Filipino seaman.

The threshold is one community case, once a person who has not travelled, not been in contact with a recent traveler and tests positive from a suburban area this will be the identifying condition that the virus has entered the country. This poses a huge reason to prepare facilities.

Upon entering isolation, isolation nurses Noella Remy and Jean Noel Anis orient patients on the everyday routine, rules, schedules, visitations and health rules. The nurses noted that the patients who have been in isolation this far have been very adhering to the set routines, schedules, rules.

They were happy with the services provided and cooperated with the preventative measures and nurses themselves. In a show of appreciation for facilitation and service provided the two recent patients from PNG donated chairs to the emergency ward, which arrived on the 10th of April.

Dr. Vincent Atua shared that the recent isolated patients were housed for 57 days in the facility, this was all paid for by the Vanuatu Central Hospital (VCH) budget. The patients entered the hospital as patients absorbed into the present operating budget with no extra needs other than the salary for the staff who are allocated there.

Patients that have been in isolation were not immensely ill.

Dr. Atua says the VCH budget will not be able to cover for more such as the two most recent cases as the VCH budget is formulated around a fixed cost, anything over and above that would have to come from the Ministry of Health or Finance.

In the event there are more ill patients with severe reactions in the future, the costs will be higher.

Presently the ventilator operational capacity is two, if a COVID situation warrants it the hospital can run one more ventilator but that’s about as much as VCH can do before reaching a breaking point as there is only so much that the resources Vanuatu has available can cover at this point in time.

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