End health crisis, UN implores govt

Sindiso Mhlophe

THE United Nations (UN) says it’s time that the government addresses the country’s health crisis, beginning with the on-going doctors and nurses’ strike, the Daily News reports.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s confirmed cases of coronavirus are nearing 5 000, including 104 deaths.
At the same time, more than 300 healthcare workers have been infected with the killer disease since the country recorded its first case in March this year.
In its latest report on Zimbabwe, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said ending the industrial action by healthcare workers should be the government’s first priority as it moves to resolve the health crisis.
“The main challenges in Zimbabwe’s health system include persistent industrial action by nurses, notice to strike by additional health worker cadres, increasing number of health workers infected with Covid-19 … insufficient capacity for hospitalisation of ill Covid-19 patients, and delayed placement of orders for essential supplies including lab kits and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Priorities should include government action to urgently address health workers’ concerns, allowances and occupational safety,” it said.
This comes after the country’s doctors and nurses recently embarked on a strike to force the government to address their concerns — including poor remuneration, lack of medical equipment, medicines and PPE in the wake of Covid-19.
The UN said in addition to addressing health workers’ concerns, the government should also strengthen the public health sector’s capacity to scale up the surveillance of Covid-19 active cases, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.
“The increase in local transmission is contributed to by delayed case detection due to gaps in surveillance, contact tracing and quarantine of contacts, gaps in isolation of confirmed cases, and sub-optimal implementation of infection prevention and control practices in health facilities, crowded institutions such as prisons and education facilities.
“It is critical that the capacity of the health system to test, isolate and treat all cases of suspected, confirmed and probable Covid-19 cases is enhanced.
“To this end, there is an urgent need to increase the number of beds in health facilities nationwide for isolation of suspected, confirmed and probable cases; increase availability of medical equipment including ventilators, patient monitors as well as medical supplies and consumables required for the management of cases … and increase the availability of personal protective equipment for all health workers involved in the management of cases,” the UN organ said.
This comes as hospitals in the country have been turning away patients who fail to produce test results to confirm that they do not have the lethal coronavirus, despite the government’s stern warning against this practice.

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