Health Perspective WITH Stephen Charles Olet
Kampala—8, June 2020: We only used to hear about health workers in foreign countries getting infected with Covid-19 but bad luck has struck as some of our very own health workers who are attached to Lira Regional Referral Hospital and those attached to other facilities have tested positive for the same virus.
This is already a clear sign that the virus does not know anybody and it infects people indiscriminately; whether or not one wears a white clinical coat, whether or not one has medical knowledge, whether or not one is in government.
It is a scary phenomenon that the people who have sacrificed their lives to care for the Covid-19 infected patients have started getting infected with the same virus and it’s even worse when we recall the rocky history of our health sector with a poor remuneration of health staff and unequipped health facilities that go for weeks or even months with essential drugs out of stock.
Even before the incidence of the pandemic, our health sector was already overwhelmed with a dangerously high patient to doctor/health worker ratio which implies that if the few health workers are getting infected and being taken for treatment while others are being quarantined, then the health sector is heading for doom.
The Ministry of Health has received lots of money meant for fighting Coronavirus but I don’t know whether the money is being used appropriately by the concerned stakeholders because it seems the health workers managing the Covid-19 cases were already on government pay roll way back before the pandemic befell our country so there is almost no evidence that more health workers were recruited by the ministry to aide in the fight against the pandemic.
Being a new morbidity, many health workers don’t have the knowledge and skills to manage Covid-19 and to protect themselves from getting infected but our stakeholders based on assumptions that all the health workers are in a position to manage the disease.
If the health workers in various health facilities across the country are not given comprehensive training pertaining to the management, infection control & prevention of Covid-19, then we should expect to see more health workers getting infected.
The issue of inadequate personal protective equipment is another factor that makes health workers vulnerable to infection. A few days ago, I watched honorable Minister for Primary Health Care, Hon Moriku Kaducu saying that all the Regional Referral Hospitals had been provided with personal protective equipment [PPE] but the lower health centers are still lacking the protective equipment.
It’s very unfair for the government to provide personal protective equipment to only regional referral hospitals and leave the health centers out, and yet the health workers in lower health centers also face remarkable risks while handling suspected cases.
The officials of the Ministry of Health should bear in mind that the money that was budgeted for fighting Covid-19 should not just be kept in bank accounts but should be put into proper use to save the lives of Ugandans and to keep the health workers safe from getting infected.
Now that Covid-19 has already given a wake-up call, the government should wake up and take the necessary steps to avoid a scenario similar to what happened in foreign countries because at this trying moment, health workers are precious like gold to the country and we can’t afford to lose them.
It’s very risky to have health professions who are infected because they have families and they also live with the community which can lead to a rapid multiplication of the virus to the contacts of the infected health workers with their family members being the immediate at-risk persons. As of Sunday, 7 June 2020, 27 frontline health workers in Uganda have been confirmed positive.
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