“I was overwhelmed. I had anxiety. I still do!”
A communique from the Ministry of Health dated 3rd January 2021 confirmed that for the first time in Seychelles a man has died of COVID-19.
The 57 year old Seychellois man died from complications of his illness at Seychelles’ Isolation and Treatment Centre for COVID-19 in the early evening hours, amid an uptick of new COVID-19 cases in the country.
In its communique, the Ministry of Health expressed condolences to the family and renewed its resolve to invest all efforts needed to break the chain of transmission.
The next day, 4th January, President of the Republic, Wavel Ramkalawan, also spoke to the nation on the death of the man and expressed “heartfelt sympathies” to the family, whom, he said, he knows personally. He provided reassurance that the country is doing every thing possible to prevent further deaths and reverse the current trend of the pandemic in the Seychelles.
More than 300 cases of COVID-19, in total, have been confirmed in Seychelles since the beginning of the pandemic. More than two thirds of these cases have recovered. More than three quarters of the cases have been foreigners who came to the country as tourists or foreign workers and were found positive on arrival.
Despite the requirement for 48 hours negative PCR test for entry into Seychelles, it has been impossible to prevent the importation of cases of the pandemic into the country.
Since after Christmas Day of 2020, the health authorities are recording a gradual increase in the number of local transmissions of COVID-19, described now as clear evidence community transmission.
On the 15th December 2020, the paradigm began to shift around mental health care patients in Seychelles.
A new law law, entirely consistent with the convention on the rights of persons living with disability, came in force.
The dignity and autonomy of persons with mental illnesses will henceforth be valued more than ever before. They will be treated as equal members of society and will be accorded the same right as other citizens to participate in their own care.
“They will always be able to make the important decisions that concern them,” said Dr. B Valentin, Chairman of the Mental Health Board and of Seychelles Patients Association.
Aided by a slew of expert international partners, the drafting of the new law took several years to complete.
Seychelles Patients Association will join teams of health care workers spread out at several strategic locations all over the country this weekend to interact with members of the public on a one-to-one basis to sensitize them further on the necessity for COVID-19 infection prevention and control.
Hand sanitizers and facemasks will be on offer to the lucky ones.
“This is all part of our overall effort to engage with the community to foster patient safety and health worker safety and is in line with the World Health Organization Theme for World Patient Safety Day this year,” says the Principal Secretary for Health, Dr Bernard Valentin and Chairperson of Seychelles Patients Association.
Now that the COVID-19 contagion is showing no sign of declining, infection prevention and control (IPC), is ever gaining ground here and abroad. It is now among the priority prevention and control programmes of the department of health. Its aim is to protect health workers and patients alike and keep infections at bay.
Ms Rita Jean, coordinator of the infection prevention and control programme says that that programme has moved a long way forward during the past ten years. She has worked directly or indirectly with it for that long and has witnessed its evolution firsthand.
“We now have 90 focal persons working alongside our team of four people who man the programme centrally,” says Ms Jean. “Fifteen among those are health and safety officers in tourism sector establishments!”
Seychelles owes part of its COVID-19 success story to the intense, relentless and rigorous training provided by the IPC team over the past six months.
The team trains colleagues and builds the necessary synergy for infection prevention and control across the health system and beyond.
The world commemorates patient safety day on 17th September every year to draw attention to the unsafe practices that patients may and do come across while seeking health care. This year the focus is on achieving patient safety through the safety of health care workers. Infection prevention and control is right at the centre of the tempest.
Patients are bewildered by the nature of transmissibility or lack thereof of COVID-19 in Seychelles.
On two occasions where a greater number of infected cases had been expected, this did not occur.
Some have attributed this to the early and correct intervention of the public health authorities whilst others have attributed it to God Almighty.
Others still attribute this to some of the theories that are beginning to appear in the international scientific community such as high rates of immunisation against other illnesses.
The real answer may lie in a combination of factors.
Meanwhile there is overwhelming evidence that hand and respiratory hygiene, social distancing and the wearing of face covering where social distancing is not possible contribute more to break the chain of transmission than any of the aforementioned. These measures are all within the control of every individual.
All over the country, patients with chronic diseases are crying out for attention.
They are reminding doctors that now more than ever before they need the care and support fitting to their disease condition.
“We do not want our appointments postponed nor refilling of our prescriptions denied just because of COVID,” said a patient.
“Our chronic illnesses matter,” she added.
Indeed, some appointments and elective operations at Seychelles Hospital have been postponed and patients are waiting for more information on the status of their care.
Health authorities have their work cut out as they grapple with a discerning clientele and an unprecedented public health emergency.
The suspension of routine Specialist Outpatient Department Clinics at Seychelles Hospital to achieve social distancing has left many older patients and patients with chronic illnesses wondering what to do to see their usual specialists at the time of their scheduled appointments or to have their prescriptions refilled.
While the Health Care Agency certainly has a business continuity plan which also addresses this, that plan has not been widely communicated.
“I do not know where to go now for my thyroid medicine,” says a middle-aged patient.
“We have been edged out! My district clinic doctor does not have any information about my thyroid issue. I cannot easily go there!”
Seychelles Patients Association has received many queries along these lines and has requested a communication from the Health Care Agency as soon as possible.
The Health Care Agency has indicated it understands the concerns raised and will soon explain what alternative arrangements are in place for various categories of patients.
The elderly and patients with chronic illnesses are the most frequent users of health services in Seychelles.
Not only is the COVID-19 illess expected to be harsher on the elderly and the chronically ill, but also it is rearing its ugly head on other aspects of life and health.
For the first time today, members of Seychelles Patients Association joined Cancer Concern Association and many others in the annual march to commemorate World Cancer Day.
The purpose of the march is to mobilize national efforts towards cancer prevention, early diagnosis and treatment. It is also to show solidarity to the patients and their relatives affected by cancer.
Chairperson of Seychelles Patients Association, Dr Bernard Valentin says that Cancer continues to be a major non-communicable disease in Seychelles.
“Cardiovascular diseases are the main causes of death (around 34.0%) followed by cancer (around 18.4% of deaths) and diabetes (around 3.0%),” he said.
Obesity in adults, alcohol consumption, tobacco use and physical inactivity contribute to the cancer pandemic.
According to statistics of the National Cancer Registry, the three most common types of cancer in men in the last five years were prostate cancer (at around 31.6% of the total number of cancers) followed by colorectal cancer (around 13.8%) and cancer of the mouth & pharynx (around 9.6%).
In the female gender, breast cancer is the most common cancer at around 32.8% of the total cancers followed by colorectal at around 12.4% and cervical cancer at around 11.6%.
Several members of Seychelles Patients Association have reiterated that the language barrier between certain foreign doctors and local patients is a major patient safety concern.
“Now that the health system is focusing on improving clinical care quality to begin comparing Seychelles with OECD countries, we need to address language barrier as early as possible” said the member of patients association at this week-end’s annual general meeting on Praslin. “It is a major patient safety matter.”
The management of Seychelles Patients Association concurs with its members that the number of foreign doctors who cannot communicate adequately with patients continues to be a major patient safety issue in Seychelles.
“The most desirable position is for doctors who cannot adequately speak any of the three local languages to be barred from practicing medicine or dentistry in Seychelles,” health professionals and patients alike have argued.
Whilst the law is broad enough to do this, policy has not followed suit, often because of challenges involved in finding an alternative doctor.
“This is not good enough,” argued one member. “Patients’ lives matter. Let’s do whatever it takes to get good doctors, doctors who can speak!” she continued.
“Sonny nou byen!”
2020 has come and, in earnest, Seychelles Patients Association has started its new round of activity.
We are starting off with our annual general meetings. Since our membership is spread over three islands, we will try as much as possible to meet with the members of all three islands in separate meetings and share profound thoughts with them with regard to where the Association should be going throughout 2020 and beyond.
Whilst we will continue to implement the unfinished business of the 2019 workplan, this year we will also try, as much as possible, to delve into innovations so as to make the association as relevant as it can be.
As much as possible, we will try to impact the lives of patients who are hospitalized or are admitted in care institutions. We will look carefully at their environment of care and we will look closely at their basic human rights and to what extent these rights are being respected in the care setting. We will draw lessons from our close observations to drive our advocacy work.
From the feedback we received from the first part of our AGM on Praslin on the 18th January, we will proceed and adopt the words “Sonny Nou Byen” as our tagline, trade mark and business name.
We will invite all our members to be as active as possible. This year, every member must do something for a patient or for several patients.
We hail the new year and we roll up our sleeves for some serious work ahead.
The company presented a cheque of SR20,000 to the Vice Chairperson of Seychelles Patients Association (SPA), Mrs Maizline Esther, on Tuesday 20th August at the Head Office of DoubleClick on the 3rd floor of Orion Mall.
“With this much appreciated donation, SPA will produce short educational videos and other educational materials on patient safety,” says Vice Chairperson Maizline Esther.
“We all know that most of the time, health workers work extremely hard to restore our health and we are indeed grateful to them for that. However, patient safety is extremely important for us as a patient advocacy association.”
“We all want to feel safe when we use a health facility,” reaffirms the Director of DoubleClick, Muditha Gunathilake. “We do not want to be harmed through inattentiveness, negligence or incompetence,” he added. “DoubleClick is happy to help!”