As health officials ramp up their vaccination campaign beyond Phnom Penh, a growing number of patients with minor cases of COVID-19 are staying home to recover.
Ngy Mean Heng, director of the Phnom Penh Health Department, said at a July 12 press conference that 1,033 such patients are currently undergoing home-based treatment. These patients are scattered across the city, with the highest numbers in areas that have consistently been hotspots for viral transmission. Listing numbers district-by-district, Mean Heng said 226 patients are recovering at homes in Sen Sok, 132 in Meanchey and 118 in Pur Senchey.
Almost 100 patients are waiting at homes in Boeng Keng Kang, he continued, 89 are doing the same in Dangkor district and 65 in Russei Keo. After that, the patient numbers steadily fall through the remaining seven districts to hit 30 in Chroy Changva and even less in Prek Pnov, for which Mean Heang didn’t give a concrete number.
In total, he added, 268 home-based patients have been declared as recovered since officials made that non-hospitalized option available in April.
At the same Monday press conference, Health Ministry secretary of state Ngov Kang said patients who are allowed to stay home typically have no symptoms of COVID-19 even though they have tested positive for the virus. These patients can ask the Health Ministry to stay at home for treatment as long as their homes are big enough to socially distance.
“Minor COVID-19 patients, their health is normal and they can eat food normally,” Kang said, differentiating them from more serious cases in which people show a high fever or have trouble breathing. “The important thing is their health, if they want home-base treatment.”
Kang explained these stay-at-home patients must have their own room for sleeping and bathing, saying patients aren’t allowed to share a bathroom with their relatives. He also said that any patients who are undergoing home-based treatment must have a healthy person to look after them. Patients must wear a mask at all times, as does whoever is looking after them. All social distancing measures still apply for a distance of at least two meters.
Those without symptoms don’t necessarily have to take any medicine, Kang said, but should follow healthy habits of eating, drinking plenty of water, doing light exercise as appropriate and sleeping. Those who do have minor fever, coughing, sore throat or pain can take paracetamol, with Kang suggesting individuals weighing 30kg or more with a temperature of 37.5C or higher can take 500mg of paracetamol three times a day. However, patients need to follow up with doctors and local authorities to update them on their status.
Kang said the Health Ministry has cooperated with the health department to arrange medical kits for patients recovering at home and urged the public to self-report cases of viral infection.
“If any people have tested positive for COVID-19 by rapid test, they need to contact local authorities,” he said that all home-based patients can call the 1222 hotline for more information.
Kang added that the Health Ministry is also now considering the use of home-based COVID-19 patient treatment for all provinces, with the next implementation being Kandal province.
Phnom Penh deputy Governor Keut Chhe said all patients who agreed to home-based treatment need to fill out an application to do so. He said family members of patients staying at home must also quarantine for 14 days and cautioned them that violating laws regarding COVID-19 protocols will apply to them.
“The authority will bring a banner for their home when they have a patient currently undergoing home-based treatment,” said Chhe.
Sen Sok district governor Mov Manith said the district’s hospital can treat home-based patients who do develop complications. He urged the public to contact health or district officials if they were facing problems related to their COVID-19 treatment.
“There is a small number of home-based treatment patients who had problems with their health and we sent them to treatment at a place for more serious patients,” Manith said.
San Chey, executive director of the advocacy group Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said he doesn’t yet know whether services delivered to patients at home are arriving in a timely manner.
Still, Chey told CamboJA he thinks treatment at home is a good option as long as doctors and public officials are implementing measures based on Health Ministry stipulations, adding that care providers should take feedback from patients to improve services.
On Monday, the Ministry of Health reported 911 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total count to 61,870 since the pandemic began in early 2020. The large majority of these cases have been recorded since February 20, when the ongoing community outbreak began in Cambodia. The ministry has also recorded 53,477 recovered cases and 925 deaths from the virus.