As the country’s health facilities continue to register a surge in Covid-19 admissions, the Society of Medical Doctors has called for volunteer health workers to beef up the system marred by inadequate staff.
The call comes barely a day after President Lazarus Chakwera admitted that the country’s health system does not have the capacity to treat the increasing numbers of Covid-10 patients, a situation he partly blamed on decades of neglect and plunder.
The President further ordered the recruitment of 1 380 health workers in four different categories in an effort to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.
But a press statement issued yesterday signed by Society of Medical Doctors president Victor Mithi says they need volunteers, particularly clinicians, nurses and laboratory personnel that are either not employed or have free time, to work at the equivalent grade allowance in Covid-19 centres in central hospital isolation wards and new field hospitals to be set up in Blantyre and Lilongwe.
Reads the statement in part: “Those willing to help should be fully registered with their regulatory bodies, they should be without a comorbidity that could increase their risk of developing severe Covid-19 and if they are employed, they should have a written permission letter for this initiative from their employers.”
In an interview yesterday, Mithi said the country is in a crisis and the health system is overwhelmed.
On the recruitment of 1 380 health workers, Mithi said although the move will help ease the burden, it will not solve the current challenges.
He said: “This is because when the health workers test positive, they withdraw from the system, creating more gaps. The system needs an additional 4 000 medical personnel for it to cope and have enough reservoir.”
For starters, Mithi said although every district needs eight medical doctors, Malawi has a shortage of one or just two doctors per district while central hospitals have only 10 percent of the required doctors.
“Government should make a deliberate approach to absorb all the idle health workers who have not been employed,” he said.
According to Mithi, the pandemic has exposed how weak Malawi’s health system is, whose challenges include the shortage of medical personnel as well as inadequate supplies of oxygen and other equipment including personal protective equipment needed for the fight against the disease.
“Covid-19 has taught us to invest in our nation’s health system,” he said.
Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo in a separate interview also admitted that the health system is overwhelmed.
Chakwera on Sunday unveiled a multi-billion kwacha and multi-pronged strategy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, including the recruitment of additional medical personnel and procuring medical recruitments and infrastructure. He also said new temporary hospitals will be constructed in all major cities to decongest major hospitals with health facilities in stadiums and the State House in Zomba.
Prior to announcing the strategy, the President last Tuesday declared a State of National Disaster, asking well-wishers to support the country’s Covid-19 response.