As cases of Covid-19 keep escalating, the country’s efforts to fight the pandemic may turn into an ineffective endeavour due to prevailing shortage of essential health workers.
This came to light on Friday when deputy minister of health Chrissie Kalamula Kanyasho visited Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) and Kameza Covid-19 Treatment Centre in Blantyre.
The deputy minister wanted to appreciate Covid-19 quarantine facilities, response and treatment mechanisms and understand challenges the facility alongside the district health office (DHO) are facing.
During the visit, Qech director Samson Mdolo told the deputy minister that demand for services has multiplied compared to the available human resource to provide assistance.
He said Covid 19 had worsened the already high vacancy rate at the country’s main referral facility and he pleaded with government for an urgent recruitment of additional health workers.
Said Mdolo: “The issue of staff shortage is becoming two fold. First, the little workers we have are getting sick so they have to be at home or in hospital or in isolation.
“Secondly, even before Covid-19, we already had a huge vacancy rate so we are like a string stretched to the end and we can’t stretch anymore.”
The situation at Qech has aggravated following the closure of Kameza Covid-19 Treatment Centre which has resulted in the hospital admitting Covid patients.
Mdolo observed the numbers of health workers have become “too small” because Covid-19 patients were labour intensive and need proper monitoring and a lot of nursing and clinical staff.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have enough staff to provide comprehensive health care as we are also on the edge of getting sick.
“If you can employ more nurses and technicians even if it means giving them short-term contracts like for six months as a response to the pandemic that will go a long way in addressing the situation,” he said.
While saying the ministry was always ready to address the concerns, Kanyasho promised to urgently recruit more health workers to prevent overburdening the system.
She said: “Of course, we can never be 100 percent prepared but we will handle it. We will intensify the recruitment of more health workers because it is evident the pandemic is stretching the human resource.”
As of Friday, Qech had 18 “severe and critical Covid patients” including a four-month-old baby and her mother who have both been receiving treatment for the past three weeks.
Since June, Qech has treated over 50 severe and critical patients, the majority of whom have recovered.