Senegal’s ambulance teams struggle amid a wave of COVID-19

Aug 10, 2021, 1:29 PM | Updated: Aug 11, 2021, 9:05 am
Mobile Emergency Care Service (SAMU) doctor Yahya Niane puts on protective gear before helping Bint...

Mobile Emergency Care Service (SAMU) doctor Yahya Niane puts on protective gear before helping Binta Ba, who is eight months pregnant and has COVID-19, before transferring her to the hospital in Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. Ambulance services in the West African nation of Senegal say about 90% of their calls right now are responding to COVID-19 patients with trouble breathing. The avalanche of cases comes as Senegal confronts a devastating third wave with the arrival of the delta variant. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

              Mobile Emergency Care Service (SAMU) doctor Yahya Niane puts on protective gear before helping Binta Ba, who is eight months pregnant and has COVID-19, before transferring her to the hospital in Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. Ambulance services in the West African nation of Senegal say about 90% of their calls right now are responding to COVID-19 patients with trouble breathing. The avalanche of cases comes as Senegal confronts a devastating third wave with the arrival of the delta variant. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
            
              Mobile Emergency Care Service (SAMU) doctor Yahya Niane, takes a break at the canteen in the SAMU headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. Ambulance services in the West African nation of Senegal say about 90% of their calls right now are responding to COVID-19 patients with trouble breathing. The avalanche of cases comes as Senegal confronts a devastating third wave with the arrival of the delta variant. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The paramedics get the urgent call at 10:30 p.m.: A 25-year-old woman, eight months pregnant and likely suffering from COVID-19, is now having serious trouble breathing.

Yahya Niane grabs two small oxygen cylinders and heads to the ambulance with his team. Upon arrival, they find the young woman’s worried father waving an envelope in front of her mouth, a desperate effort to send more air her way.

Her situation is dire: Niane says Binta Ba needs to undergo a cesarean section right away if they are to save her and the baby. But first they must find a hospital that can take her.

“All the hospitals in Dakar are full so to find a place for someone who is having trouble breathing is very difficult,” he says.

It’s a scenario that has become all too common as Senegal confronts a rapid increase in confirmed coronavirus cases. Instead of motorcycle accidents and heart attacks, the vast majority of ambulance calls in the country’s capital are now COVID-19 cases.

“We have had an influx of calls for respiratory distress,” said Dr. Abdallah Wade, head of the regulation department at SAMU, Senegal’s emergency medical service. “We had a few in the first wave, a few in the second wave, but since the beginning of the third wave, 90% of the calls are for respiratory distress.”

During the first year of the pandemic, Senegal was frequently cited as a success story in Africa: After quickly closing the country’s airport and land borders, President Macky Sall mandated mask-wearing and temporarily halted interregional travel.

The delta variant, though, has changed all that. While the country of 16 million people received more 500,000 AstraZeneca vaccines through the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative, the demand has now outstripped the supply leaving many still waiting for their second doses.

Hospital beds, too, are in short supply, leaving COVID-19 patients to languish at home while they wait for a spot or until their condition further deteriorates.

“Now there is an overflow of calls and an overflow of patients and very few places available,” said Dr. Mouhamed Lamine Dieng, who works at the emergency services control center trying to triage and place patients.

“The main challenge for the team is to find a place at the right time to save a person before they die,” he said.

Binta Ba, the young expectant mother, ultimately got a spot since her oxygen levels had dropped sharply. Doctors estimated that 50% of her lungs had been affected by the virus by the time she made it there.

Doctors delivered her baby girl by cesarean in time. Four days later though, the mother remains on oxygen support in the intensive care unit while hospital workers tend to the newborn.

“There are people who thought that COVID did not exist,” said Djiba Ba, the baby’s grandfather.

“This is because some people denied its existence on social media networks and TV channels,” he said. “I swear to you that COVID is real and that people who refuse to be vaccinated should be punished.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

murders...
Associated Press

Renton man gets 10 years in prison in drug trafficking case

A federal judge has sentenced a Renton, Washington man to 10 years in prison for his role in a violent drug distribution ring, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
12 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Brazil school shooter wore swastika, planned attack

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — A former student armed with a semiautomatic pistol and a revolver who killed three people and wounded 13 in two schools in Brazil had a swastika pinned to his vest and had been planning the attacks for two years, police said. The shootings took place Friday at a public school with […]
2 days ago
Jorge Rodriguez, from the Venezuelan government delegation, center, speaks to the media as he arriv...
Associated Press

Venezuela’s gov, opponents resume talks; US eases sanction

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Venezuela’s government and its opposition on Saturday agreed to create a U.N.-managed fund to finance health, food and education programs for the poor, while the Biden administration eased some oil sanctions on the country in an effort to boost the newly restarted talks between the sides. The agreement signed in Mexico […]
2 days ago
FILE - View of the Jose Antonio Anzoategui oil complex in Barcelona, Anzoategui State, Venezuela, J...
Associated Press

Biden eases Venezuela sanctions as opposition talks resume

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Saturday eased some oil sanctions on Venezuela in an effort to support newly restarted negotiations between President Nicolás Maduro’s government and its opposition. The Treasury Department is allowing Chevron to resume “limited” energy production in Venezuela after years of sanctions that have dramatically curtailed oil and gas profits […]
2 days ago
Pakistan's former Prime Minister and opposition leader Imran Khan, center in seated, addresses to h...
Associated Press

Pakistan’s ex-PM Khan says his party to quit all assemblies

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s former premier Imran Khan said Saturday his party was quitting the country’s regional and national assemblies, as he made his first public appearance since being wounded in a gun attack earlier this month. Khan, a former cricket star turned politician, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April. He […]
2 days ago
FILE - This file booking photo provided by the Delaware Department of Justice shows Barry Croft Jr....
Associated Press

Judge denies bid for new trial in Whitmer kidnapping case

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge has denied a new trial request by two men convicted of conspiring to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Lawyers for Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. alleged misconduct by a juror and unfairness by U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker following their conviction by a federal jury […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Senegal’s ambulance teams struggle amid a wave of COVID-19