MINISTRY of Health Director of Infectious Disease and Internal Medicine Specialist Dr Lloyd Mulenga says they always avoid putting Covid-19 patients on ventilators because their chances of survival are very slim.

Meanwhile, Dr Mulenga says it is not true that free education has caused a spike in Covid-19 cases, revealing that while schools were closed, some children were being admitted after getting infected.

In an interview, Mulenga disclosed that since the pandemic began, only nine out of about 60 people who ended up on ventilators survived and of those, three are still dependant on oxygen to this day.

He said health workers now try all other alternatives before putting any patient on a ventilator.

“What you just need to know is that, for any Covid-infected patient who ends up on a ventilator, it means they are severely ill, it also means that their lungs are highly affected. And in Zambia and also world over, the people that are put on ventilators, the chance of survival is very very low. To answer your question, we have had more than 360 individuals who passed through ICU across all the four waves, of those initially, we had started using ventilators but we saw that after the second wave, only one had survived of more than 30 people who had been on ventilators, the rest had died. And what we did, we started using other means of supporting the lungs by using gadgets which were not going inside the lungs and these are called C Circuit, we also had some items called high flow nasal cannula,” Dr Mulenga said.

“We were trying just to balloon the lungs with external pressure instead of having ventilator balloon the lungs to help breathing. So what we experienced was that the outcome was not better for those that were in ICU almost about 20 per cent, so if we talk of 360, almost 20 per cent came out of ICU but those that ended on ventilators, which the total number was about 60, we only had about nine people who survived, very poor outcome, and the rest again we ended putting them cytokine storm ventilators, what that shows is that people who were severely sick and their lungs were compromised died.”

He urged covid patients to seek early treatment rather than waiting until they’re very ill.

“We have other models besides the ventilator that we us to help Covid-19 patients breathe and if those models don’t work, the ventilators are the last last thing we use. This has taught us that it is better for someone to come early for treatment as opposed to someone presenting late. If a patient is needing a ventilator, it means that the infection is severe and in terms of survival, the chances are very very low. Now those numbers I have given you, are very bad numbers. In America, they have almost 100 percent death for people who end up in ICU in certain hospitals. So really, those that end up on ventilators are very sick and chances of them surviving world over is very very low but you see, for us its about out of 60, only nine made it out of the ICU, very very sad statistics,” he said.

And Dr Mulenga said of the nine people who survived after being on ventilators, three of them were still dependant on oxygen.

“Life after the ventilator is valid, those that ended up being on a ventilator more than a month, their lungs have been compromised a lot whereby I think three of the 9 that survived they are still now dependent on oxygen. Those that were on ventilators for less than 14 days and they made it, they have recovered and they are okay but again the quality of life is reduced after being on the ventilator in terms of quality, the lungs are severely damaged during that time but those that were ventilated because the lungs were not very bad, maybe for other reasons they are the ones that have done very well,” he said.

He said covid had long term effects.

“On average it will take about six months for those to recover. But some even up to now we have had patients one year over they are still not well. I was reviewing [some cases] last week towards those dependent on oxygen and these in ICU, those on a ventilator, they fell sick in December 2020 and up to now they are still on oxygen even though they are on oxygen from home. So we have consumed one year six months or so, people are still battling with consequences of Covid. And some of those that recovered they are okay, the fatigue went and it just took about six months, from our experience it’s about six months to 18 months to those that have recover from Covid,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Mulenga said it was not true that free education had caused a spike in Covid-19 cases, revealing that while schools were closed, some children were being admitted for the same.

“What I can advise the people and your readers is that people with Covid, they need to present early and they need to make sure that people are now vaccinated. It is not true that it is because of free education that is why we have a high number of cases among children, you notice before, schools were closed but people were still getting infected. In fact, we had a number of children admitted more often so it’s not true that it is because of free education that is why there are high numbers of cases. This omicron variant has been highly infectious and it has affected both the children and the adults. This is when a lot of people think the threat is not there and forget that this threat it may come back. There is a possibility that a fourth wave is coming and if they are not vaccinated, then we are going to have a similar challenge again in terms of high deaths we had during the first wave,” said Dr Mulenga.