The response to COVID-19 in Democratic Republic of Congo

Global Development Group partners with HEAL Africa Hospital for project J730N, located in North Kivu province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The HEAL Africa Hospital (HAH) is one of only 3 tertiary referral hospitals recognised by the DRC Government. The hospital currently has 250 beds but has potential for expansion in the COVID-19 crisis with the recent purchase of an adjoining hotel and the consequent availability of additional patient rooms. HAH employs 82 nurses and 39 doctors (15 of whom are Senior Specialists including the only Physician-Anaesthetist) for 9 million inhabitants of North Kivu Province, 2 million of whom live in and around Goma.

In addition, HAH employs 1 of only 2 Emergency Department (ED) Physicians, trained by GDG project J730N, in all of DRC for a population of 86 million. In view of the availability of the anaesthetist and ED specialist, HAH has been declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Goma to be the ‘centre for COVID-19 care for Goma’.

A significant percentage of the population live below the poverty line. As of 24 March 2020, 45 cases of COVID-19 have been proven in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, with 4 deaths; and 2 cases in Lubumbashi – and the only reason there are no recorded cases in Goma is that there is no testing available. Thousands of people cross the Rwanda/Congo border at Goma each day and there are 40 confirmed cases of Covid19 in Rwanda and reportedly 3 cases in Gisenyi, the town adjacent to Goma. It is inconceivable that there will not be cases in Goma. It is therefore estimated that cases in Goma will increase. Estimates would suggest that if only 4% of cases are severe, 80,000 potential severe cases of Covid19 will occur in Goma and even if only 1 in 10 require ventilation, there will be 8,000 cases requiring ventilation and there is only 1 (possibly 2) functioning ventilators available. Staff will be required to work long hours to cope.

Australian surgeon and project manager for project J730N Neil Wetzig is having weekly calls with surgical trainees in Goma to prepare them as best as possible. Providing those on the ground with online training and guidance as they prepare to face an expected tidal wave of cases.

Project J730N AusHEAL Congo is one of many GDG projects operating hospitals and clinics to care for those with COVID-19.

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