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How call center is aiding fight against Covid-19

By HAROLD ODHIAMBO | Tue,Aug 10 2021 12:40:00 EAT


Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong'o. [David Njaaga, Standard]

When it was launched in May 2020, many dismissed it as a publicity stunt aimed at appeasing the public about the dedication by the county government of Kisumu to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The establishment of the toll-free Covid-19 call centre came at a time when health workers were up in arms over the lack of enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’s) in public facilities. Many did not see a call centre as a necessity in the Covid-19 fight.

More than a year later, however, the call centre is now a focal point in the fight to combat the spread of the virus that has now developed several strains. It is now the one-stop medical shop for residents and health officials seeking information and emergency response.

Covid 19 Time Series


So useful is the centre that the county’s department of health has now prioritized it as one of its key interventions aiding both contact tracing and emergency response in the fight against Covid-19.

In the entire Western Kenya region, Kisumu is the only county with such innovation with experts optimistic that the ideology can be replicated to respond to other future emergencies after the Covid-19 pandemic.

When this writer visited the centre about a week ago, an operator was busy coordinating transport and evacuation of a suspected Covid-19 case. She is among the six operators who have been burning the midnight oil to respond to emergencies.

Although it was barely 9 am, the operator was already receiving the fifteenth call of the day. The caller wanted to know more about the symptoms of the Delta variant, a strain of the virus that authorities have been grappling hard to contain its spread.

“The establishment of the centre was a noble initiative which has improved emergency response and sharing of important information about Covid-19 with patients,” says the operator.

Operating under a toll-free number 0800 720 575, statistics indicate that the centre has been receiving an average of 60 calls each day. There are days the centre receives almost 100 calls.


Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong'o. [David Njaaga, Standard]

According to health experts, the number of enquiries soared when new curfew measures were introduced in June this year targeting 13 Lake Region Bloc counties.

In a bid to ensure that the centre is more efficient, Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o’s administration has linked the centre to its 24 ambulances, with help always a phone call away.

According to the County Director of Health Fred Oluoch the centre has improved contact tracing through the targeted tracing approach authorities have adopted recently.

“When we receive calls about suspected cases at the centre, we coordinate response and conduct targeted tracing in the area the call is received from,” he says.

The director says that it has been easier to coordinate response to Covid-19 emergencies through the call centre.

“The call centre was the best idea that came up that has helped us a lot in the quest to reduce Covid-19 cases,” says Oluoch.

He noted that they have incorporated latest medical technologies to coordinate response. GPRS technology has also been incorporated at the centre to help the operators locate the nearby ambulance for each case of emergency.

“There is a screen at the call centre that displays important information about the ambulances, including their location and amount of fuel available which helps in decision making on which one to select for any emergency,” he says.

“Generally, we have been receiving between 48 calls and 60 calls. Not all of them are emergencies. Some are from people keen on understanding how to protect themselves from the virus,” says Oluoch.


County Director of Health Fred Oluoch the centre has improved contact. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The county government credits the centre as one of the turning points in the fight to reduce cases of the disease that soared between the months of June and early July. It has played an instrumental role to encourage people to take the Covid-19 jab.

By the end of June, the county had tested a total of 46,757 people out of which some 856 samples were positive with 705 placed under home-based care and isolation under the keen watch of authorities to ensure they do not interact with the public until they recover.

Authorities are however yet to generate a report on the cases that were tested as a result of direct phone calls to the centre, but officials claim that they are part of the statistics of those tested.

In the last couple of weeks, however, cases of the virus has been declining. In the last week of July, Kisumu’s daily Covid-19 positivity rate did not exceed 20 cases, according to data released by the Ministry of Health.

And as authorities continue with the fight to reduce cases of the virus, residents are hoping the lessons learnt from the introduction of the call centre can be used in future to coordinate public health emergencies. 

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