“The main challenge today is to help patients in severe and critical conditions.There are almost no beds available in intensive care units, and they are often occupied for long periods by severe COVID patients. These two elements combine to create a bottleneck,” says Francesco Segoni, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator in Peru. “Oxygen supplies are insufficient and a major concern is that the vaccination rate is still very low, leaving the population exposed and the healthcare system under pressure”.
On 31 May 2021 the Peruvian Ministry of Heath announced a revised number of deaths from Covid-19 since the beginning of the outbreak, following the indications of a Government task force that worked for weeks to review the calculation. The total number of casualties of the disease now stands at over 180,000, i.e. 2.5 times the previous count (69,300). Peru now has the world’s highest number of Covid casualties per million people and the 5th-highest number of deaths in absolute terms.
As of today, only 11% of the Peruvian population has received the first dose and less than 4% is fully vaccinated. “With the presence of multiple variants, and insufficient testing capacities leading to slow detection of cases, as long as the population is unprotected the curve may start ascending again”, explains Segoni.
With a 100% bed-occupancy rate in intensive care units across the country, the pressure remains very high. Medical staff is stretched to its maximum capacity and beyond, and resources are insufficient to meet the needs. MSF opened its second covid-19 project in May in the city of Cusco, in the south-east, to provide treatment for patients who are in critical conditions and need “high-flow” oxygen, aiming at taking off some of the pressure from the intensive care unit of Antonio Lorena hospital. 17 patients were admitted in the first two weeks of the intervention.
MSF’s activity in Cusco adds to the ongoing work in Huacho, some 140 km north of Lima, where its teams are helping the Regional Hospital’s intensive care unit, as well as treating patients who need oxygen in a dedicated facility and working in the community and local healthcare centres to improve screening and referrals. More than 140 patients have been admitted in MSF’s 32-bed isolation and high-flow oxygenation centre, and more than 2000 consultations have taken place in the 4 health centres supported by MSF to facilitate triage. Mobile teams, who have been able to provide home care to some 120 people every week, have also vaccinated over 1000 people with a first jab.