While the country has demonstrated great appreciation for the work that frontline health workers are doing and have done during the outbreak of COVID-19, a recent revelation that some frontline health workers in the Ashanti Region have been infected by COVID-19 is rather unsettling.
We learn that investigations have already commenced to determine if it was due to improper use of PPE, or that the health workers were exposed to infected persons outside the workplace. It is important to get to the bottom of this matter, because we cannot afford a situation wherein health workers will become reluctant to treat infected persons because of the risk of contracting the virus themselves.
The Medical Director of the Kumasi South Hospital, Dr. Kwame Ofori Boadu, expressed grave concern about the development when he received a presentation of PPE to the facility by Vodafone Ghana.
The Geneva-based International Council of Nurses revealed not too long ago that the virus has killed more than 260 nurses, as per data from 30 countries. At least 90,000 health-care workers worldwide are believed to have been infected with COVID-19 – and possibly twice that, amid reports of continuing shortages of protective equipment, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) said.
Therefore, putting this in perspective shows that frontline health workers are most at risk of contracting the deadly virus; and the situation of frontline health workers in the Ashanti Region comes as not much of a surprise, even though it could have been avoided by proper use of PPE and strictly adhering to WHO health protocols.
Dr. Ofori-Boadu noted that training for COVID-19 or any other infectious disease is a key process that should take place regularly to, among others, remind staff of the dangers and precautions which have to be taken in their line of work.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), which is coordinating the global response to the pandemic, says that its 194 member-states are not providing comprehensive figures on health-worker infections as they grapple with the unprecedented crisis.
This failure to record both infection rates and deaths among healthcare workers is putting more nurses and their patients in danger. Ghana must be candid with the infection rate of frontline health workers, so as to protect not only the health workers themselves but also those they might come into contact with.
We must give these health workers all the support they need to do their jobs, be safe and stay alive.