News that a consultant surgeon with the Trust Hospital in Accra, Dr. Richard Kisser, sadly lost his life to COVID-19 last week sends a chill as he joins the list of health professionals who lost their lives following their line of duty in trying to cure persons affected by the pandemic.
In April, Professor Jacob Plange-Rhule – the Rector of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, also died of COVID-19 at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC). Also, last month the Medical Superintendent of the Kwadaso SDA Hospital in Kumasi, Dr. Harry Owusu Boateng died after contracting the virus.
As at May 23, 2020, it was reported that at least 83 health workers across the country had been infected with COVID-19. Other fatalities have also been recorded, although some of the health workers have recovered.
Having adequate numbers of health workers is critical to winning the battle against COVID-19; that’s why the loss of such high-profile health workers is quite disturbing and calls for more protection for these frontline health workers.
Healthcare systems across developed and developing nations are being put to the ultimate test and are under tremendous pressure to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus – and the majority of this responsibility is being shouldered by frontline health care workers, fearlessly putting their lives on the line in order to do so.
Perhaps the largest misery remains the shortage of personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers, who are now resorting to re-using single-use gear or developing local, generic quick fixes; both of which do not offer the same protection as professional quality gear.
President Akufo-Addo, in his 13th televised COVID-19 address to the nation, said all health workers will pay no income tax for the next three months: “that is, July, August and September”.
He also added that that all frontline health workers, as defined by the Ministry of Health, will continue to receive the additional allowance of 50 percent on their basic salary per month for July, August and September.
Albeit these are remarkable incentives, we also have to take cognisance of the risks these frontline health workers face in their line of duty and ensure that adequate quality professional gear is procured for them.
While at it, when their member associations express misgivings about certain policy decisions that might exacerbate the risk they face in their line of duty, officialdom must be seen as engaging with or assuaging their concerns.