Opinion By Jose Antonio Belo
Timor-Leste has managed the Covid-19 crisis very admirably since the crisis started. There has been no new Covid-19 cases for the last 5 days and the number of positive cases has been decreasing. On top of that, Timor-Leste has also seen zero deaths since Covid-19 became a global pandemic.
The bulk of the planned purchase of medical equipment and supplies for the management of this crisis has yet to materialize. Perhaps with the latest developments, further consideration should be given as to the actual requirements for the management of this crisis.
The purchasing of medical equipment and supplies can be divided into 2 large categories:
- Personal Protective Equipment – gloves, masks, gowns etc.
- Medical Equipment – Ventilators, ICU bed facilities, Monitors etc.
It is certain that personal protective equipment will be required. Even if it is all not utilized during this Covid-19 crisis, these will still be used daily at health centers and hospitals.
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However, further consideration should be given as to whether large purchases of highly specialized medical equipment are required. Ventilators and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) equipment require very highly specialized personnel to operate them in a safe manner. Usually, they are managed by specialized Anesthesiologists, ICU nurses, respiratory therapist or physicians who are specifically trained to manage these equipment. Timor-Leste has a severe lack of these.
As such, much deeper consideration is needed if Timor-Leste is considering the purchase of around 100 units of ventilators and ICU beds. These are very expensive items to purchase. However, cost is not the main issue as we cannot value lives with money. The main issue is, are there enough capable people to operate and maintain these equipment?
Ventilators are dangerous to patients if not operated properly. They require constant monitoring, correct settings, constant power supply and they need to be operated in absolutely sterile and hygienic conditions. While Timor-Leste does need some of these equipment, Timor-Leste should also purchase according to its capacity to operate them instead of buying them and storing them. Worse still, operating them without the relevant expertise and causing harm to patients.
While it is understandable at the start of the crisis to make provisions and plans to purchase these highly specialized equipment due to urgency and uncertainties surrounding how the crisis will unfold, Timor-Leste can now have a better understanding of the likely impact Covid-19 will have on Timor-Leste.
Should Timor-Leste continue to test and monitor all those in quarantine as well as to keep its borders shut, the chances of a massive Covid-19 crisis seems less likely at the moment.