MALAWI. Lilongwe: Several factors including failure to test health personnel in time, and lack of community awareness has caused many health workers in some district hospitals especially in COVID-19 isolation centres to either die or contract the coronavirus in Malawi.
As of April 4, 2021, 1,677 health workers have contracted COVID-19 in Malawi. There have been 21 deaths and 1654 recoveries. All 29 districts were affected.
These are the statistics given by the Malawi Ministry of Health.
A visit to Dedza District Hospital shows that some personnel who were working at the hospital’s COVID-19 isolation centre were not tested for the pandemic before being sent to work in the centres when the first wave struck.
The Director of Health and Social Services for Dedza, Dr Misha Stande said the problem of having health personnel contracting the virus ceased from the first wave to the second wave.
For example, in Ntcheu, out of 65 people working at the District hospital’s isolation centre, five contracted the disease.
This is despite the health workers receiving training on how to protect themselves from contracting the pandemic.
“The problem is lack of awareness about the disease to surrounding communities. Doctors and nurses are human beings, they live in communities. No matter how much they can try to protect themselves, they can still catch the virus, ” says Dr Stephen Macheso Ntcheu’s Director of Health and Social Services.
He adds, “it is like HIV. It doesn’t matter whether one is faithful and follows all HIV preventive measures, they may still get it from an unfaithful partner”.
Provision of Personal Protective Wear
However, observations by this Reporter discovered that many health personnel didn’t have adequate Personal Protective Wear especially during the first wave of the pandemic which occurred from March to December 2020.
These include gowns that cover the head to the toes; it was learnt that only aprons and facemasks were the ones commonly available especially during the second wave which began in January this year.
Last year, staff at Kameza Isolation centre boycotted work in protest over risk allowances and lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) among others.
With the country’s fight against COVID-19 shifting from mere testing to vaccination, there is also a need to intensify vaccination in communities, unlike focusing on front line workers and other risk groups alone.
The British Charity, Oxfam together with local representatives of Transparency International, Integrity Platform have teamed up with journalists to find out on the usage of COVID-19 funds as well as explore the health challenges that the pandemic has exposed.
The journalists were drawn from local and international media outlets including Transcontinental Times.
Apart from the deaths of medical personnel, the COVID-19 pandemic had also exposed shortages of space in health facilities.
Isolation centres for treating cases of the pandemic have been created in extension to already inadequate ward spaces and doctor to patient ratio.