Adonis Pio, Communication Officer at NPH Dominican Republic
COVID-19 has had a huge impact across the world during the past 18 months. It has claimed over 4.5 million lives, with 4,000 deaths reported in the Dominican Republic. There is still no known cure for the virus, although methods like strict hygiene protocols and managing any symptoms can help to limit its spread. NPH Dominican Republic has been implementing mitigation methods like these at Casa Santa Ana since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to do so today.
When the Dominican Republic authorities first began to apply the COVID-19 vaccine in February 2021, the medical team at NPH began liaising with the Ministry of Public Health to ensure that employees at Casa Santa Ana could be vaccinated as soon as possible, especially those working with our vulnerable populations.
Luckily, the Ministry of Public Health began vaccinations at NPH in April, sending a brigade of nurses to the clinic at Casa Santa Ana to apply the first dose of the SINOVAC vaccine, administering the second one in May. To date, 116 employees have received two doses, while another 46 have chosen to get third.
Doctor with her patient in the hospital
Boy in red sweater holding a book
Boy sitting on a chair getting vaccinated
Since then, the Ministry of Public Health has also begun vaccinating our youth at Casa Santa Ana. So far, 140 children have received the first and second doses, the latter of which took place in July.
Dr. María Reyes, the medical coordinator at NPH Dominican Republic, says, “We thank God that the situation is under control regarding the vaccine, as well as the Ministry of Public Health who has supported us in the effort to vaccinate our staff and youth. However, we maintain the internal protocols in the home to avoid any outbreaks.”
The home continues to check people and staff who enter the facility, insisting on handwashing, the use of a face mask, cleaning with alcohol, taking temperatures, and, in some cases, requesting that visitors show their vaccination card.
“The Ministry of Public Health provides support and advice about how to protect our populations at NPH, which we are grateful for. Together, we can overcome this pandemic,” adds Dr. María Reyes.
Ryan, a 16-year old currently in high school at the Casa Santa Ana school, expresses his delight at being vaccinated. He says, “I have more freedom. We must be careful, but there is less chance of us getting COVID-19. I can see my family and friends more easily now.”
“Get vaccinated,” concludes Ryan, “We need to end this pandemic and return to normal.”
NPH would like to thank the Ministry of Public Health for coordinating and carrying out the COVID-19 vaccination of our youth and staff. We would also like re-confirm our commitment to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for everyone of all ages, as expressed under the United Nation’s SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing.
*Names of minors have been changed to protect privacy.
Daniel Zapata, Linette Gomez and Nicholas Rogers
NPH Mexico has two of its four homes in the state of Morelos; one in the city of Cuernavaca, where the high school students reside, and the other in the town of Miacatlán, a one-hour drive south-west of Cuernavaca, where the preschool to middle school students live. In Morelos, as in other states across Mexico, the spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths has spiraled out of control.
To combat this rise in cases, the Mexican authorities have implemented an epidemiological risk system in the form of a “traffic light” to help regulate the use of public spaces, with colors assigned according to the risk of infection. Areas with the highest level of contagion are given a “red light”, occurring when hospital occupancy is above 65% for two weeks, with a constant increase in infections. When a red light category is assigned, only essential economic activities are allowed. The population is urged to stay at home, asked to only go out for essential activities while respecting social distancing measures and wearing a face mask. In Cuernavaca, those not wearing a mask are at risk of being fined.
On 24 December 2020, Morelos was assigned a red light lasting until 15 February 2021. Many businesses had reduced incomes during this seven-week confinement, with some even closing partially or totally. By the end of 2020, according to National Institute of Statistics and Geography the Mexican economy had shrunk by 8.5%.
ESCALATION OF COVID CASES IN MORELOS
Unfortunately, the 2020 year-end holiday season led to an increase in COVID-19 infections in Morelos. Some residents attended social gatherings during these holidays, ignoring the prevention recommendations. The result was a second wave of infections, one much higher than the first wave in 2020.
By the end of January 2021, hospital occupancy was extremely high. Over 90% of the intensive care beds in the state of Morelos were occupied, while regular beds had 80% occupancy. The Secretary of Health of the State of Morelos reports that from March 2020 to 13 February 2021, “…72,064 people have been tested, of which 24,477 have been confirmed positive for COVID-19; 2,438 are active, 45,957 discarded, and 1,630 are suspicious; 2,147 deaths have been registered in the state.”
NPH MEXICO ADAPTS TO NEW COVID-19 CRISIS
For months now, NPH Mexico staff have worn face masks and transparent full-face plastic shields when working inside the homes. Other items such as thermometers and protective suits for the medical staff, supplies for virus contagion prevention such as sheets, mattresses, towels, etc., had to be purchased. As a result, more than US$16,000 has been spent that was not budgeted. To help prevent COVID-19 infections, NPH Mexico has made wearing a face mask mandatory for all children and adolescents inside the homes. So far, 420 reusable masks have been distributed in the home in Miacatlán and 200 in Cuernavaca, with each mask costing Mex$5.50 (US$0.30).
The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed NPH’s budget, due the increased price of food and supplies. The National Director of NPH Mexico, Rafael Bermúdez, says, “We have added the price of basic food and hygiene products and disinfectants which we are using in large amounts and which have risen considerably in cost. For example, the cost of eggs has risen approximately 20% in much of the country. As expected, people are buying medical and cleaning supplies, food, and other products in large quantities. Thus, we must be prepared, considering our large population, with over 400 children alone in Miacatlán.”
The current high COVID-19 infection rate in Morelos means that fight against it continues. To be able to face this challenge, NPH Mexico is requesting support to purchase the following items.
- Portable Oxygen concentrator machine – AIRSEP 10 L
- Respiratory Hygiene Station Boxes
- Hand-Free Sanitizer Dispensers
- PCR Tests for COVID-19
- Antibody Tests for COVID-19
- Three-ply Cloth Masks
- Boxes of Non-Sterile Gloves
- Wall-Mounted Infrared Forehead K3 Pro Thermometer with Stand
- Non-Contact Instant Reading Digital Temperature Detector
- Multivitamins (100 caplet bottles)
- Posters with information for COVID-19 prevention, size 50×35 inches
- Basic Vital Signs Digital Monitor
Preventing COVID-19 in the NPH homes is a challenge. Primary health care for this requires using rapid tests, personal protective equipment, monitoring equipment, disinfectant supplies, medication, vitamins, and careful monitoring of the patients and the high-risk groups. In addition, NPH Mexico promotes these preventive methods and safeguarding tips through discussions, murals, and banners placed throughout the homes. These can serve not only during the pandemic but also to prevent other conditions.
On another front, the Psychology Department monitors the children and adolescents to detect and treat any mental health issues due to being confined for over a year, a long time for a child or youth.
The Social Work Department has kept the children’s families informed that the children are in good health and protected from the pandemic.
The effort to protect the children and youths must continue and strengthen every day, not only in the homes in the state of Morelos but also in the other two NPH homes in northern Mexico.
“We would like to thank our donors and godparents for the love and support they have given the NPH Mexico family during this crisis. This is a difficult time for everybody, with many people having to make personal and financial sacrifices. Any help you can support us with right now is most appreciated. We pray to God for your health, as you do for our children. God bless you,” concludes Rafael Bermudez, National Director of NPH Mexico.