7 September 2009

Burkina Faso: Floods Shut Down Hospital, HIV Reference Lab

Ouagadougou — Recent floods have shut down Burkina Faso's main hospital, interrupting dialysis treatments, preventing HIV diagnoses and overloading health centres ill-equipped to take on surgical cases, according to the Health Ministry.

To date, there have been seven reported deaths and more than 100,000 people made homeless by the storms. Most of the displaced have sought refuge in dozens of sites throughout the capital Ouagadougou.

The Health Minister Seydou Bouda told IRIN on 7 September that the three wards still open at the hospital - maternity; ear, nose and throat; and eye care - are only taking emergency cases. "Even in normal times, Yalgado [hospital] needed heavy repairs," said the health minister. "Now this situation has come, which has made the renovations more pressing."

Bouda told IRIN the hospital must suspend its activities in order to rebuild and replace equipment. "There is no use in rushing to reopen as if nothing had happened." On 1 September, the city received one-quarter of its typical annual rainfall in an hours-long deluge.

HIV care

Equipment in the hospital's HIV laboratory that was used to diagnose the disease countrywide has been destroyed. Three of the capital's five reference laboratories capable of high-level accurate diagnoses - for more diseases than just HIV - have been damaged, the Health Ministry's Secretary General Adama Traoré told IRIN. "We are in the process of contacting the makers of the CD4 count machines [used to diagnose HIV] in the hospital to find out how to make repairs or what can be done."

He said the hospital needs to contact patients who are on anti-retroviral treatments for HIV in case the patients' homes have been destroyed and medicines are lost, but it has lost contacts for most its patients. "If I had a patient before me right now, I could not tell you that patient's medical history because we simply have no records. They washed away. Computers were damaged. Paper files destroyed."

Nationwide there were about 10,000 people on ARV drugs as of June 2009, according to the government's national HIV and sexually transmitted diseases council.

Health Minister Bouda told IRIN the government has requested emergency assistance from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Dialysis

The hospital's director general, Lansande Bagagné, told IRIN on 6 September that some dialysis patients were in a critical state and had started vomiting when their treatment had been discontinued for days. "We were able to get three generators working to continue their care."

Altogether 50 dialysis patients had to stop treatments when the machines were destroyed, said the Health Ministry's Traoré. "We are at a loss as what to do. We are simply lost. No other health structures are equipped to take them on," said Traoré.

Traoré told IRIN the hospital is relying on radio and television advertisements to redirect people to other health centres. "We are managing and the health system has been able to react quickly, but we are still in the process of assessing how much we lost."

Traoré told IRIN though the major stock of donor-funded medicines - including anti-malaria pills and anti-retroviral medication for HIV patients - were stored safely outside the hospital, any medicine at the hospital was destroyed.

When asked health centres' operation plans if and when additional rains come, Traoré replied: "For the long-term, we should not build health structures in flood-prone zones. For the short-term, we move our papers to a higher and drier spot."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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