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Doctors issue corona threat  

DOCTORS have warned that they will not attend to coronavirus patients unless authorities supply them with protective clothing and the necessary equipment, the Daily News reports.
This comes as Zimbabwe has recorded its first known death from the lethal virus after talented broadcaster Zororo Makamba succumbed to the disease at Wilkins Hospital yesterday.
Zororo, 30, was the youngest son of telecommunications tycoon and broadcasting legend James Makamba.
The treasurer of the Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), Norman Matara, told the Daily News yesterday that there continued to be an acute shortage of protective clothing and equipment, including intensive care unit (ICU) beds and ventilators.
“We are currently receiving very concerning information from some doctors and health care workers who are saying that if there is a case of coronavirus and they are called to attend to it they will not report to work, because there is no sufficient personal protective clothing and equipment to shield them from contracting the virus.
“Currently there is a shortage in personal protective clothing, for example N95 masks as well as protective suits — which places the lives of doctors, particularly those in district and provincial hospitals at risk.
“This is very concerning because if people who are supposed to be on the frontline, working to mitigate the situation, have no confidence in the health delivery system, then who will ensure that people are treated and that an outbreak is prevented?” Matara said.
In addition, he said, the government also needed to ensure that ICU beds and ventilators were availed, given that coronavirus patients often faced respiratory challenges and required intensive care support.
“From what we are seeing in other countries, in terms of coronavirus cases that are coming in, 18 percent require intensive care.
“In Harare, we have four ICU beds that are operational, two from Parirenyatwa Hospital and two from Harare Hospital — which means that we have four ventilators … for an ICU bed to be considered as operational, it has to have a monitor and ventilator.
“In Gweru, we have three operational ICU beds. This just goes to show the lack of preparedness in dealing with coronavirus that we are confronted with as a nation,” Matara said further.
“Something needs to be done urgently to capacitate hospitals and health workers because we can’t have a situation where health workers are expected to operate in a risky environment.
“They also have a right to life … This is what the doctors were calling for last year when they went on strike.
“But instead of addressing this, the government turned a deaf ear. Coronavirus has just exposed the incapacitation of the country’s health workers,” Matara added.
The former secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), Mthabisi Bhebhe, also raised similar concerns over the lack of ICU beds and ventilators.
“In Bulawayo, we have one functional ICU bed at the United Bulawayo Group of Hospitals (UBH) and three at Mpilo Hospital.
“Unfortunately, the Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital which has been designated to deal with coronavirus does not have ICU beds, just like the Wilkins Hospital in Harare.
“We cannot count the ICU beds that are in central hospitals because they are there to deal with other cases, and the hospitals have not been designated to deal with coronavirus cases,” Bhebhe said.


“What this means is that we are going to record deaths if cases of the virus increase in the country because we have no capacity to deal with it.
“Those who are going to survive are probably going to do so because of their immune system which might be strong enough to fight the disease,” he added.
The president of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Shingai Nyaguse, said in addition to availing personal protective equipment for doctors, there was also need to conduct training for doctors who were expected to handle cases of the virus.
“There was training of about 300 health workers which was done in Kadoma a few weeks ago, but that was more of an awareness training.
“Therefore, more needs to be done to train more healthcare workers on how to handle coronavirus cases, especially those in provincial and district hospitals.
“Training can even be done online where people can just log in and get all the necessary training on how to handle coronavirus cases,” Nyaguse said.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union (ZPNU) has also petitioned the government over a lack of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
“This petition seeks to bring the issue of nurses and all health care workers to the attention of the Zimbabwean government, Parliament, responsible authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO) before health workers are wiped away by Covid-19 due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing.
“We are in dire need of protective equipment to help in the fight against this pandemic. We need N95 respirators, gowns, goggles and sanitisers, among other resources.
“The government must know that health workers are essential services … we don’t want to be tempted to abandon patients due to lack of PPE,” ZPNU said.
Health minister Obadiah Moyo conceded yesterday that the country had acute shortages of ICU beds, ventilators and protective clothing for doctors and nurses.
“We have put through an order for adequate protective equipment, to cover all our health workers and we are looking into the issue of ICUs and ventilators too.
“Those issues will soon be addressed adequately,” Moyo said in response to questions from the Daily News

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