Covid: Come to work even if infected, ministry says

Doctors told to adopt Ubuntu mentality

28 July 2021 | Health



The health ministry has ordered its staff members in the north to show up for work even if they are infected with Covid-19, as long as they are not severely ill.

In a letter written at the beginning of this month titled ‘procedure to follow when staff is a Covid-19 suspect or positive’, Oshakati hospital acting medical superintendent Dr Asumani Kibandwa said while he is aware that Namibia is dealing with its most devastating and lethal wave of Covid-19, they have noted with concern some colleagues taking chances and using Covid-19 as an excuse not to report for duty.

As a result, Kibandwa said management has come up with mandatory protocols to be followed by staff members in the event that they are suspected of having Covid-19 or confirmed as such.

He said because infections are reaching staggering numbers and the current 80-bed ward designated for Covid-19 patients at the hospital is full to capacity, the Covid-19 unit has been expanded to Ward 8 (former Ward 6B).

“At this unprecedented time, we need all hands on deck, and now more than ever, we need an Ubuntu mentality. All staff who are Covid-19 suspects should report for duty while waiting on results, unless they are moderate to severely ill. If only having mild symptoms, such staff should report for duty,” he said.

He added that transmission among colleagues should be little to none if staff members wear protective equipment.

This is despite Namibian Sun having recently reported that doctors at the hospital have resorted to “zula’ing” for gloves in order to perform operations following a four-month shortage.

‘It’s a disaster’

A doctor who spoke to Namibian Sun on Sunday said they have been infected twice.

“For the most part, every single health worker is asymptomatic. To a point where one doesn’t even know if they are re-infected or having complications from the last infection they had,” the doctor said.

They added that despite health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula telling the nation that there is personal protective equipment available and that it is sufficient, the truth on the ground is dire.

“We are working with plastic aprons; gloves are hard to come by; you will maybe get a mask from the nurses in charge. You will get positive Covid-19 results of a patient you interacted with after they are dead or moved to another ward. Everyone is infecting everyone here. It’s a disaster.”

“You are still expected to come to work unless you have moderate to severe symptoms. Basically you’ll have to be really sick not to show up to a job that does nothing to make sure you don’t get infected again. As more health workers get sick, the load is added onto the remaining few, making it a losing battle,” the doctor said.

Submit your forms

In his circular, Kibandwa said suspected Covid-19 cases among staff members presenting moderate to severe symptoms should submit sick leave forms to their head of department and to his office confirming that they have indeed been swabbed and are awaiting results. These forms should also as well state which parameters qualify them as moderate to severely ill, he said.

“All confirmed positive should submit a printed confirmatory result. And [for] those with severe symptoms, a 10-day isolation period will be granted, starting from the day swab was collected.

“Human resources will keep track of the leave days and such a staff [member] is expected to report for duty on the 11th day. Failure to do so will be regarded as unpaid leave,” he wrote.

Yesterday, Kibandwa said: “We have all protective equipment available and there is no shortage currently. People are just reporting whatever they feel comfortable”.