The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) is gravely concerned by the current massive shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for frontline health workers in the country in the wake of the infectious COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc globally. Healthcare workers rely on PPE to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others during their course of duty.
Surprisingly, the shortages come at a time when our COVID-19 cases are escalating due to the deadly second wave of transmission, spike in mortality rates and the threat of the highly contagious new strain of COVID-19. It is sad and very worrying to hear that nurses at Sally Mugabe hospital have downed tools citing the unavailability of PPE, a move that could plunge the country’s COVID-19 response deeper into the doldrums. The government should urgently equip medical staff with PPE and offering them safe transport to and from work daily.
It must be noted that shortages of PPEs have left doctors, nurses and other frontline health workers dangerously exposed and ill-equiped to take care of the increasing COVID-19 patients or suspects because of their limited access to supplies such as gloves, masks, aprons, respirators, goggles and gowns. The COVID-19 response cannot be done without valuing and protecting our health workers. It is worrying to hear that some health workers are being given just one mask for the whole week, despite the fact some are intended for one-time use and disposal. There have also been reports of some health workers sharing same gown with some reusing PPEs over prolonged periods.
The government must do everything within its means to avail PPEs to health workers because failure to do so would lead to unprecedented levels of burnout and disease. This would cripple the health system’s ability to continue caring for the sick and putting an end to the pandemic.
Itai Rusike (Mr)
Community Working Group on Health (CWGH)