Researchers say that during the Covid-19 pandemic, critically ill patients in two big hospitals in Malawi often didn’t receive basic essential medical attention, and some died in hospital as a result. Many lives can be saved, especially during disease outbreaks such as Covid-19, if patients receive the necessary treatments.
Hospitals receive critically ill patients everyday, and the situation was worsened due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Most critical patients have difficulty breathing, low blood pressure and some are unconscious. Hospitals should be able to correctly assess these patients because it is fairly easy and cheap to do, and it helps doctors give the correct treatment.
Unfortunately, it is still not clear how many hospitals are actually able to do this in developing countries.
In this study, the researchers wanted to know how many critically ill adult patients in Malawi were correctly identified and given the right treatment.
They studied 2 hospitals in Malawi, looking at patients aged above 18 who had difficulty breathing, low blood pressure or were unconscious. They wanted to see if patients who had difficulty breathing received breathing air (oxygen), if those with low blood pressure received ‘fluid drips’, or if those who were unconscious were laid down properly.
The researchers found out that of the 1135 patients they checked, 4.0% had difficulty breathing, 9.1% had low blood pressure, and 1.5% were unconscious. They said 88.9% of those who had difficulty in breathing did not get breathing air (oxygen), 91.3% of those with low blood pressure did not get drips, and 53% of those who were not unconscious were not laid down properly to help them breathe.
The researchers also reported that 22% of those who had difficulty breathing, 22% of those with low blood pressure, and 53% of those who were unconscious died within a week while in hospital.
These results suggest that more must be done in these hospitals to provide relevant treatment to critically ill patients with Covid-19 or other diseases, as many lives could be saved without the need for expensive hospital equipment.
The researchers however cautioned against drawing broader conclusions based on their study, since they only looked at patients from 2 hospitals and only collected data for 5 days.
They also said the treatments they looked for in this study do not always save the lives of patients, so they may have overestimated the need for such treatments.
The researchers recommended more studies to understand why critical patients often do not get essential treatments, and how hospitals might use more of these cost-effective measures to save lives.
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