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Covid-19 crisis: No PPE, no personnel, low morale



THE shortage of hospital beds for Covid-19 patients in Zimbabwe’s health institutions has been linked to inadequate personnel working on the frontline as infections rise among health care workers, senior doctors told The NewsHawks.


Frontline workers who have been working without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) since March 2020 when the first Covid-19 case was recorded, have been haggling with government to provide proper PPE, to the point of declaring incapacitation and taking legal action.

A high price has now been attached to Covid-19 care as doctors and their patients are desperately looking for beds at any price.

At the same time, the rich and senior government officials, according to well-informed medical sources, have managed to stock their homes with ventilators and oxygen, waiting for that hour of need.  

As of last week, the Parirenyatwa Covid-19 centre had only two nurses on duty looking after 60 patients, according to a hospital source.

 There was also only one physician, who was overwhelmed.  The same situation is obtaining at Wilkins Hospital, where about 80 patients are admitted, with a few nurses looking after them.

Zimbabwe on Tuesday announced a record 1 365 new infections and 34 deaths.  Cumulatively there has been 446 deaths as of yesterday.

Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) president Shingai Nyaguse said the issue of hospital beds and frontline workers could be easily solved if the authorities were willing.

“We do not have enough personnel working in the Covid wards. The shortage of beds is relatively man-made and can be solved if people want to. It is linked to the shortage of personnel,” Nyaguse said.

“There is a combination of things why there is that shortage, some of them being that healthcare workers were infected and are in isolation and the issue of morale which is low.”

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights this week estimated that at least 1 000 health workers had been infected with Covid-19.

“We reiterate that the unavailability of PPE is a violation of the 2020 high court ruling ZADHR vs Ministry of Health and Child Care and others) which directed government to direct adequate PPE to all frontline workers and also is against the tenets of the International Labour Organisation Decent Work Agenda. ZADHR will soon be seeking enforcement of the court resolutions in its efforts to ensure adequate protection of health workers,” ZADHR said in their 21st Covid-19 monitoring and advocacy report.

Coupled with the shortage of health workers, hospitals are also operating with an acute shortage of drugs and equipment to offer support to patients, according to the doctors.

Nurses, who got their flexi-hours illegally cancelled by the government, have also complained about the lack of commitment by the authorities to provide protective clothing and to ensure there is support for the infected members.

“The issue of PPE is still a concern, nurses are going for the whole day with one mask. We have seen a number of nurses going into quarantine because of lack of PPE. I do not have the actual figures at the moment but a lot have been infected,” Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo said.

This week, Information secretary Nick Mangwana revealed through his verified Twitter account that eight out of 81 staffers at Chegutu Hospital had tested positive, while 60 more were expected to be tested during the week.

He also said at Karoi Hospital, six out of 22 staffers had tested positive for Covid-19. Social media was awash with reports of other health workers who had tested positive for Covid-19 around the country.

A Zina executive member told The NewsHawks that nurses at Sally Mugabe Hospital were being forced to work while being sick with more than 60 nurses having tested positive.

“We collected this information on our own through members who were tested positive. This week we gathered that at the maternity wards 17 tested positive, general wards (21), peads (2) ,theatre first floor (2)  and casualty 14.  We are writing a letter to the management concerning this issue.

“The frontliners are reporting daily and are highly exposed to the virus,” the member said.