BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
ZIMBABWE’S COVID-19 response could suffer a huge blow following reports that more and more health workers in public hospitals were testing positive to the respiratory virus.
The country has been recording over 2 000 new infections since Wednesday as figures continue to gallop as well as 56 deaths on Thursday alone.
These figures include health workers who also live within the communities where the disease has caused havoc and most of these frontliners use public transport to report for duty.
On Thursday afternoon, Chitungwiza Central Hospital was reportedly forced to temporarily shut down some departments as an undisclosed number of nurses tested positive.
The hospital’s spokesperson Audrey Tasaranarwo said she would provide the details on the situation, but failed to do so.
Elsewhere across the country, public hospitals have also recorded increased cases of staff testing positive to COVID-19.
The country’s largest referral hospital, Parirenyatwa, also confirmed that some of the staff members were testing positive to COVID -19.
“But it is difficult to tell how they are contracting it since community transmissions are now rampant. As a hospital, we are doing everything within our capacity to ensure that the workplace is safe for our staff,” the hospital’s spokesperson Lenos Dhire said.
Sally Mugabe Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Christopher Pasi said they had also been affected.
“Yes, we have not been spared. Fortunately, no severe disease or fatalities have been recorded,” he said.
“But they were getting affected in numbers that do not entail us closing the hospital. We do not know what next week will be like. This is always a moving target.”
Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya in a circular to staff also confirmed the increase in cases among workers.
“This is to inform you that we are recording an increase of COVID-19 cases among patients and staff. I would like to urge all of you to exercise extreme caution both here at the hospital and in the community,” Ngwenya said.
“Those who are found to be positive can isolate to prevent further spread of the disease.”
He called on all clinicians to decongest the wards.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo said nurses were not being protected adequately.
“Many are using public transport to go to work,” he said.
“They are exposed as they travel in crowded spaces. It goes back to the issue of remuneration.
“The lowly salaries are not enough to buy them a car, so that they have a safer mode of transport. Government has not put in place adequate transport, specifically for these workers who are forced to stand with the crowds and jostle for the illegal mushikashikas.”
Dongo also said many health workers lived in crowded communities because they had no decent houses.
“The nurses are not protected in hospitals. They are given just one mask to last the whole day and yet masks need to be changed frequently,” he said, adding that in some instances, there was no running water and personal protective equipment was still not enough.
Health workers were initially sceptical of the vaccines and when the first 200 000 doses arrived, only a few turned up.
Although there are no current statistics on health workers inoculated so far, the response has been sluggish.
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