Healthcare workers suffered silently during COVID-19 pandemic infancy: Doctors

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BY VANESSA GONYE
HEALTHCARE workers (HCWs) reportedly suffered silently from mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This came out in a recent report by the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), which exposed that HCWs were facing various hindrances in accessing mental health services.

ZADHR secretary Norman Matara said the effects were seen among HCWs as they were still trying to recover from their COVID-19 experiences.

“Barriers to accessing mental health services make it more difficult for health personnel, especially those who were at the frontline during the COVID-19 peak period, to cope. There are no mental health structures for people working in government hospitals, there is need to prioritise their mental health,” he said.

Matara said despite having mental health challenges caused by the pandemic, HCWs faced stressful conditions of service, which further worsened their mental well-being.

He said their research study recommended investments in mental health for HCWs.

“(There is need to) invest in mental health. Recruitment of healthcare workers to ease the burden on those already in service is vital to ease the pressure. There is need to increase remuneration so as to keep those still in service.  It is also important to deal with the challenges at hand,” he said.

Addressing the same event, Hwange Central MP Daniel Molokela said there was need for partnerships with universities to research on mental health issues.

“Awareness on mental health issues is important, not just for medical personnel, but for everyone,” he said.

Molokela decried the fate of the health sector, saying the 14,9% allocation from the national budget was insufficient to solve the healthcare deficiencies in the country.

Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association president Tawanda Zvakada said their experiences at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic weighed heavily on their mental capacities as health workers.

“Losing colleagues was a very painful experience and it was very scary to diagnose yourself after experiencing symptoms aligned to COVID-19. It was also very depressing trying to save others while not properly protected from the same,” he said.

Many health workers working on the frontline died in 2020 and 2021, while the experiences they encountered had a bearing on their mental health as the global pandemic ravaged.

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