Influx of patients, bodies left for hours in the middle of the sick for lack of space in the morgue, lack of staff: in Tunisia, hospitals are beginning to be overwhelmed in the face of the spread of Covid-19, which is reaching unprecedented levels.
The Ibn Jazzar hospital in the confined region of Kairouan (center) has had such an influx of patients that “some of them die without realizing it”, deplores a nurse, Imen Fteiti.
Bodies remained in the rooms for up to 24 hours, due to a lack of personnel to take them to an already full morgue.
Mohamed Misaroui, a resident of Kairouan, tells AFP that he left his wife in hospital with her sick mother “because it is not autonomous and there are no nurses, so what to do?”.
Tunisia has recorded an unprecedented number of daily deaths since the start of the pandemic a year and a half ago, bringing the toll to more than 15,000 deaths for 12 million inhabitants, and more than 600 people are currently in intensive care. The official number of total cases exceeds 445,000.
The field hospitals set up in recent months are no longer sufficient: 92% of resuscitation beds in the public are currently occupied and those in the capital are full.
Faced with this wave assimilated to a “tsunami“, the authorities have confined six governorates where the rate of spread of the virus is particularly high, including Kairouan.
Doctors, nurses and NGOs have sounded the alarm in Kairouan. An online prize pool has been organized.
“There is a lack of oxygen equipment, and we have reached a stage where we no longer know who to rescue first”, regrets Imen Fteiti.
Daily oxygen consumption has reached a level of 5,500 liters per day, up from 400 to 500 before the start of the new peak two weeks ago, according to the regional health administration in Kairouan.
In this marginalized region, health establishments, both public and private, have only 45 resuscitation beds and 250 oxygen devices, according to health authorities. A sports hall has been converted into a hospital.
At the Ibn Jazzar establishment, there are three nurses for every 35 people with Covid.
“We start early in the morning and we don’t know when we finish”, Imen Fteiti told AFP.
His day begins with the sick lying on the floor in the corridors, failing to find a bed.
Troubled, she remains marked by a young girl who begged her to take charge of her father because she had just lost her mother from Covid. “Unfortunately he is dead” too.
The daily number of deaths has reached 20 including children in Kairouan, where the streets are almost deserted, the souks and shops closed.
“The situation was very delicate, and the intensive care beds saturated”, recognizes the regional director of health, Mohamed Rouiss.
Hospitals in neighboring governorates have been mobilized to distribute patients, “but today the situation is complicated because these hospitals, in turn, are overwhelmed”, indicates M. Rouiss.
Sousse, a seaside town 60 km away, has also been placed in total containment, and the security services have prohibited access to the main beach.
The strip of white sand dotted with parasols is empty, auguring a catastrophic second season for tourism, the lung of the Tunisian economy.
In Tunis as in the disadvantaged regions of Béja or Jendouba (north-west), hospitals are also struggling to cope with the influx of patients, according to videos posted by local media and on social networks.
For Slah Soui, resuscitator at the second largest hospital in Kairouan, the “Aghlabides“, the disastrous health situation is explained by “recklessness and non-compliance with the rules of physical distancing“but also by”too low a level of vaccinations “.
Shortage of doses, lack of awareness: out of 593,000 inhabitants of Kairouan, only 95,000 are registered to be vaccinated, half of whom have had at least one dose. Nationwide, 575,000 people have had two doses … about 4% of the population.