“If it goes on, well go to code black in a matter of weeks. Ill talk about 1 to 2 weeks.” Intensivist Bernardo Panka describes the situation in hospitals currently in Suriname. The healthcare system is under pressure, as there are about 300 to 500 corona infections every day. A few weeks ago, they were still on 100 infections a day.
Suriname is in the middle of a fourth wave. The country has 50 ICU beds, two years ago it was 25. Suriname is a sparsely populated country; 600,000 people live. According to Panka, there is tremendous pressure on bed capacity and health care in general. He explains staff have been working overtime for weeks.
“Some work at least 16 hours a day, and there are now twice as many beds, but with equal staff. You can do that for a week, maybe two months, but weve been going for over a year now”
Not trained in two weeks
Coordinator of the nursing department of the Wanica Hospital in Paramaribo, general practitioner Roshni Ramtahalsing, confirms that image. “Moe is an understatement yes, weve been going for a year and a half. The situation is alarming and chaotic. Patients come in every day. Sometimes we even have to refuse them because theres just no place. There are many staff infections or burnout because they have been working under these conditions for a year and a half.”
Suriname was hit hard by the coronavirus this year. The country was in a complete lockdown and in hospitals gold code black. The Netherlands sent doctors and nurses to help. “When the third wave seemed to fall, the aid was rightly stopped,” says Panka.
“The staff went back to the Netherlands. But soon after, the number of infections rose. We are unable to double our staff, such as nurses, in a short period of time. You havent trained people in two weeks.”
The country also suffers from a shortage of medicines and regular care, such as operations, is sometimes postponed. What youre seeing now is an explosive growth in the number of infections, a new record, says correspondent Nina Jurna.
“So the number of positive tests per day is far too high, its around 50 percent. While a percentage of 10 percent is manageable according to experts. So Suriname is over it.”
It is also difficult for laboratories in Suriname to keep track of it all, because there are so many registrations. Infectiologist Denise Telgt van het Radboudumc has worked in Sint Maartenskliniek and has been in Suriname several times on behalf of the Netherlands to support the medical team there. She thinks its not surprising: according to her, its the delta variant that is now quickly grabbing around her.
“Suriname has mainly seen the gamma variant since April. In the Netherlands, we had to deal with the delta variant at the time. If you allow flights from the Netherlands again and people go to Suriname on vacation, it is of course waiting for this variant to enter the country. In addition, in Suriname people live close to each other, which does not benefit the number of infections.”
3000 people in home isolation
So far, 40 people in Suriname have died of corona this month. In the country, code is purple, the highest alert phase. More than 3000 people who now have corona are in home isolation. Some of that would prefer to be in the hospital, but there are too few places there. Whats more, according to Telgt, there is no home care as in the Netherlands, according to Telgt.
Nina Jurna expects stricter measures to be announced soon, as the situation is uncontrollable. “Curfew had been widened. First people were not allowed to go outside after 6 pm, which was relaxed again in August and curfew went to 9 pm. It may be that they are now screwing it back.”
The pressure on healthcare is not extreme as it was in June, when people were really waiting outside the hospital, says Telgt. About 25 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, while about half have had one shot. She hopes the number of hospitalizations will be easy.
Death under 50
But thats not to say the situation is under control. Bernardo Panka points out that the people who are now in hospital may end up in the ICU and the number of positive tests by the delta variant remains high.
“You have to take into account the fact that 20 percent of patients who are now hospitalized may end up in the ICU. If youve been able to pull someone through it, it gives you energy, but you lose people too, too, young people. People who died under 50.”