700 health workers have Covid-19

The health ministry says the increasing number of infected healthcare workers is causing strain and crippling state and private hospitals alike.

05 January 2021 | Health

TUYEIMO HAIDULA

OSHAKATI



Health minister Kalumbi Shangula says the country is facing a worrying situation, with over 700 healthcare workers having tested positive for Covid-19 and three losing their lives in the process.

In a telephonic interview with Namibian Sun, Shangula said while this is a sign of the trials medical staff on the frontlines of the outbreak face, his biggest worry is that the increasing number is causing strain and crippling state and private hospitals alike.

He warned Namibians that hospitals will end up filled with patients but there will be no health workers to treat them because they have also fallen ill.

“I don't know if people understand the situation we are in. We have a huge problem. In Namibia we already have a shortage of health workers. It's a problem to get a replacement when one gets infected. I am begging Namibians to stay home and avoid the further spread of the virus,” Shangula said.

He said the recorded cases include ambulance drivers and employees of the health ministry and are not limited to nurses and doctors.



Understaffed

According to recent statistics from the World Bank, there are 1 222 doctors in Namibia - 784 working in the public sector and 438 in the private sector. Half of Namibia's doctors are based in the Khomas Region. In 2018, former health minister Bernard Haufiku said there were 354 doctors at state hospitals across the country.

At public hospitals, where the shortage of doctors is most felt, patients often wait in queues for hours, a situation which will worsen if the rate of coronavirus infections does not slow down. Inadequate access to personal protective equipment, or weak infection prevention and control measures, raises the risk of health worker infection. But these are the not the reasons for the increasing infections among health workers, Shangula said.

“They are not necessarily infected at the workplace. They knock off to go home and can be exposed just like anybody else, so I am asking that we please stay home and take care.

“Just leave the house if you need to buy food or to go to work and back home. We are concerned about health workers being infected because they are the people who are supposed to take care of the sick.





“I am once again pleading with Namibian people to comply with the regulations put in place.”

The minister said although the latest regulations include limiting public gatherings to 50 people, he urges people to avoid any sort of crowds.

“I do not want to lose any of my staff. I do not want to put anyone at risk, so I have decided to drive myself to work and asked the driver to go on leave. The secretary as well. I don't want to risk them unnecessarily.”



Fake news

He took a swipe at people spreading misinformation that the government is getting paid to record Covid-19 deaths.

“I was so disappointed to hear the stories of people who say the government receives money from the US when they announce that someone has died. Honestly, the media should also educate our people so they understand this better,” Shangula stressed.

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