Rose Wakikona, a senior programme officer at the Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development-CEHURD says that the government should be ashamed of the way it has treated health workers during this pandemic. She says their rights as health workers have been abused due to government's failure to provide adequate PPE in time for all health workers.
Medical Association-UMA is blaming the high number of COVID-19 infections among
health workers to the low quality of Personal Protective Equipment-PPE distributed
by the government to health facilities and high fatigue levels. Over 1500
health workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and 14 others succumbed to the
pandemic as of December 6th, 2020.
the Health Ministry had pointed at the community as the source of COVID-19
infections among health workers. However,
Uganda Medical Association says the medical workers are being exposed to the virus
by poor quality PPE and high fatigue levels.
They argued that the masks
that the government provides and some of the medical gowns are of low quality.
For instance, they say some of the gowns provided come with goggles that do not
fit properly while others cannot close properly and open even when they are
secured with masking tape.
Dr. Muhereza Mukuzi, the UMA secretary-general told
journalists on Tuesday that they have received several complaints of
substandard PPEs supplied by the government. "We have visited all our branches
in the country and we have been told that the PPE is fake. Some of the masks
when you look at them are not N95, which is recommended for health workers.
Their material and quality look fake. And this gives health workers a fake
sense of protection," he said.
Dr. Henry Kajunbula, a public health specialist and member of the COVID-19 Scientific
committee, says that the country is facing a challenge of protecting health
workers amidst procurement of poor quality PPE.
"One of the challenges that
have been encountered in COVID-19 treatment units has been the quality of PPE.
Sometimes this is not just a local challenge but a global one where different
manufacturers have come up to provide these things. We also face a challenge of
ascertaining the quality of some of these products," he said.
The doctors say the sporadic supply of PPE also leaves them open to infections.
Dr. Frank Assimwe, a surgeon at Mulago National Referral hospital, one of the
COVID-19 treatment facilities, says health workers are falsely protecting
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In addition to poor quality PPE, doctors say the health workers are being overworked, something which is exposing them to infections. Dr. Robert Lubega, the
deputy secretary-general of UMA, says that many health workers are working
without rest. He says this is exposing them to infections because they are
often tired and make avoidable mistakes.
"Health workers were supposed to work for five hours every shift. These
shifts are supposed to be rotated. But now they are working for 24 hours, yet
the numbers have increased. Many are tired and due to this, they are likely to
make mistakes when wearing gloves or even when gowning. Spending 24 hours in a
treatment facility is not good," he said.
As of today, over 25,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported. Over 9,000
patients are receiving treatment. Dr. Kajumbula says the number of health
workers employed to manage COVID-19 cases needs to be increased.
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Rose Wakikona, a senior programme officer at the Centre for Health, Human
Rights and Development-CEHURD says that the government should be ashamed of the
way it has treated health workers during this pandemic. She says their rights as health workers have been abused due to government's
failure to provide adequate PPE in time for all health workers.
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UMA now wants the government to hire more health workers. They also want the
government to clear the allowances and salaries and risk allowances of all health
workers. The doctors say the
government's failure to pay the salaries and risk allowances of health workers
has worsened their working conditions.
Dr. Richard Idro, the UMA president says the irregular payment
of the salaries and allowances of health workers made the working conditions intolerable.
“Health workers in treatment units have not been paid their salary for more
than three months. They have not received their risk allowances for longer.
Such working conditions are difficult to work under. Health workers are
stressed," he said.
Dr. Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health says that the
government is working towards addressing the grievances of the health workers. "We
have not had money to pay their salaries and allowances but the ministry of
finance has released funds and we shall be paying all the affected health
workers," she said. According to the Health Ministry, the country has
procured majority of its PPE from China.