Incidents in Zifta and Husaineya Hospitals reveal the deterioration of health services in Egypt

Late on Saturday, a video, released by Al-Jazeera Egypt, trended on Facebook Egypt. It was recorded by a smart phone in an intensive care unit showing patients died on their beds with the medical team collapsed and two nurses attempt to make life support for an arrested patient. The man in the video commented while recording that this is in the ICU of Husaineya hospital in Sharqiaa for the isolation of COVID19 cases. “There is no Oxygen. All who were here died,” said the man in the video.

The governor of Sharqiaa Mamdouh Ghourab admitted the death of 4 patients but denied that this was because of Oxygen cutout. “The infection itself and its complication is the cause of the deaths,” said Ghourab to ElDostor News. However, the governer of Sharqia and the secretary of the Ministry of Health did not explain what appeared in the video as there were at least seven dying patients at the same moment. The medical team appeared shocked and collapsed even some of them could not help in life support of the arrested patients. The Husaineya Hospital’s incident came just hours after the uncovering of a similar incident in Zifta Public Hospital. A video appeared earlier on Saturday showed the patients in Zifta Hospital asphyxiating in the absence of Oxygen supply, while the medical stuff hurry to carry out life support amid chaos and horror of the patients and their relatives.

Abdel Nasser Hemida, the secretary of the Ministry of Health in Gharbia, denied the deaths and the Oxygen cutout. He appeared in a live broadcast from the hospital confirming that there are no problems. However, Egypt Watch knew from sources in the hospital that the video goes back to Thursday, when an employee in the hospital switched the Oxygen supply system while the Oxygen cylinders were being changed. The process took a longer time than usual causing the incident. Sources in the hospitals and in the villages of Zifta confirmed to Egypt Watch the death of 7 patients from the Oxygen cutout.

Accumulated neglect

There are two ways to provide Oxygen supply in hospitals; the first is through a large Oxygen tank which is reloaded regularly before running out. This is the safer and more advanced method, but it requires more advanced techniques to guarantee the safety and the appropriate loading. The other old method, which is applied in most public hospitals in Egypt, uses large Oxygen cylinders. Those cylinders should be exchanged regularly. “The process of exchanging the cylinders should not take more than seconds,” said Mohamed Aktham, a technician responsible of the Oxygen supply system in a public hospital.

Aktham added that the store of the hospital should contain a reserve of cylinders to avoid the cutout in case of a provision lag. Moreover, in cases of fixing emergent malfunctions, the medical staff should be notified before the cutout to attempt to provide the necessary support to the critical cases. According to Aktham, the problems of Oxygen networks are recurrent in the public hospitals, so the Ministry of Health works on renewing them in a lot of hospital. However, the process of renewal hadn’t started until the outbreak of the second wave of COVID19.

“Despite the alarming warnings of the second wave, the Ministry of Health preparations were too late,” said Mahmoud Fawzy, a physician in the Ministry of Health. Fawzy explained that the hospitals designated for the isolation of COVID19 cases, like al-Warraq Hospital, had not been notified with the decision until the day of implementation. This represented a big mess as the already admitted patients with diseases other than COVID19 were transferred to other hospitals in critical conditions, and the isolation hospitals received COVID19 patients without preparation. In a similar vein, the archive shows that the hospital of Husaineya itself was an object of recurrent complaints from the local residents of the area. Recurrent media reports have appeared since 2018 regarding the neglect in the hospital; the last one was a video on a Facebook news outlet showed the deteriorated condition of the hospital.