.FILE PHOTO (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Covid-19 takes its toll on health workers

“The growth we are seeing in Covid-19 cases in Africa is placing an ever-greater strain on health services across the continent.This has very real consequences for the individuals who work in them, and there is no more sobering example of this than the rising number of health worker infections.”

DURBAN – More than 10 000 health workers across 40 countries in Africa have been infected with Covid-19 so far, a sign of the challenges medical staff on the frontlines of the outbreak face, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

In South Africa about 13,000 health workers and killed more than 100 of them, the Health Ministry said Thursday, as the virus takes a toll on frontline caregivers.

“The growth we are seeing in Covid-19 cases in Africa is placing an ever-greater strain on health services across the continent. This has very real consequences for the individuals who work in them, and there is no more sobering example of this than the rising number of health worker infections,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

So far, about 10 percent of all cases globally are among health workers, though there is a wide range between individual countries. In Africa, information on health worker infections is still limited, but preliminary data finds that they make up more than 5 percent of cases in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa alone, and in four of these, health workers make up more than 10percent of all infections.

A recent report by South Africa’s National Institute for Occupational Health said hospital admissions of health workers were increasing weekly in line with the national trend of rising numbers of admissions. In many African countries infection prevention and control measures aimed at preventing infections in health facilities are still not fully implemented. According to WHO only 16% of the nearly 30 000 facilities surveyed had assessment scores above 75 percemt.

Many health centres were found to lack the infrastructure necessary to implement key infection prevention measures or to prevent overcrowding. Only 7.8 percent (2213) had isolation capacities and just a third had the capacity to triage patients.

 “One infection among health workers is one too many. We must make sure that they have the equipment, skills and information they need to keep themselves, their patients and colleagues safe,” said Moeti.

 

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