Human Resources for Health (HRH) Coalition has given the Malawi government up to Friday this week to procure and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) in all public health facilities or face nationwide strike of frontline workers in the coronavirus ‘warzone’.
The coalition argues that a lack of or shortages of PPE in public health facilities are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for coronavirus diseases (Covid-19) patients.
Ironically, the ultimatum comes barely a day after it was alleged that Beautify Malawi Trust – a trust established and owned by First Lady Gertrude Mutharika – tapped into the funds meant for the fight against Covid-19.
HRH Coalition chairperson Shouts Simeza told journalists in Lilongwe on Tuesday that with eight confirmed Covid-19 cases in Malawi, healthcare workers are increasingly anxious, fearing they could expose not only themselves to the virus, but their patients and families as well.
Simeza added that a lack of or shortages of PPE in public health facilities are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients.
“This [procurement and supply] process should be done as early as yesterday. We cannot go to approach patients now without personal protective equipment. To patients seeking our services, I urge them not to dare come close. We are infectious because we don’t have protective equipment,” he said.
“As a Coalition, we have made a demand that these equipment should be made available to every health worker by Friday. We deserve to be protected but also to protect the public.
“We know logistically we may have some issues, but if we network very well, we should be able to achieve this. We want by Friday, every health worker to be protected. If this doesn’t happen, we are legally protected to withdraw our services,” Simeza emphasized.
He said the coalition has also demanded an upward adjustment of risk allowance from K1, 800 to 70 per cent of each health worker’s monthly salary considering that minibus fares have not been reduced in response to reduction in fuel prices.
And when the Nyasa Times reporter demanded an answer on whether the doctors’ decision to hold go on a nationwide strike would not be construed as defying President Peter Mutharika’s call for patriotism, the Medical Doctors Union of Malawi’s president Dr Collins Mitambo said the coalition is simply reminding government of its duty to the healthcare workers.
“We are just reminding government on what to do on Covid-19. We were supposed to have done it long time ago. These things were supposed to be done two weeks ago. For the resources, it falls back on preparations.
“We are grateful that His Excellency has shown willingness to make resources available for addressing these challenges. We know that resources are there to address our concerns,” said Mitambo.
On the other hand, Simeza wondered whether there is enough reason for the healthcare workers to risk their lives to demonstrate their patriotism to government and the populace in general.
“Should we risk our lives because of patriotism? If we are not safe, we are going to demand for safe working environment. We will remain patriotic and available. We will remain in the forefront in the fight against this pandemic,” he said.
Health workers across the country are ‘taking risks’ when it comes to their own health due to the ‘inadequate’ protection they are being provided with.
Over 1 360 000 people worldwide have been infected with Covid-19 which has killed over 76 000 people across the globe.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :