All public health workers fighting Covid-19 will be getting protective equipment that has now arrived in Zimbabwe and is being rushed to all centres, while risk allowances are being processed with just details to be negotiated.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said in an interview with ZTN yesterday that 20 000 kits of personal protective equipment donated by the Jack Ma Foundation arrived on Tuesday and are now being rushed to all centres for distribution to frontline health staff who have said they cannot cope without this equipment.
On the risk allowances, professional associations were working out figures for the Health Services Board but the Government has already agreed that money would be found to pay these allowances.
In addition to the personal protective equipment and the risk allowance, Government has also approved a substantial amount for car loans meant to ensure that all health workers use safe transport as they travel to and from work.
Yesterday the Progressive Doctors Association of Zimbabwe denied members had withdrawn labour but said that protective clothing had to be issued to front-line staff promptly if they were to attend to patients and appealed for the risk allowances to be sorted out quickly.
Association president Dr Benson Dandiro said health staff "cannot attend patients without protecting ourselves" and that the doctors had already been in contact with the minister who had promised swift action.
"We hope by Thursday (today) most of the hospitals staff will receive their protective clothing," he said.
Dr Dandiro also dismissed rumours that their members had downed tools.
"Our members are at work. No one has downed tools as we speak. We are committed to provide service to the nation, but we are appealing to the Government to provide protective clothing to health workers. As we speak our members are at their work stations," he said.
"Of paramount importance is the safety of all essential services that should remain functional. To that effect personal protective equipment for all health care workers who are at the highest risk of getting infected while trying to help fellow citizens is essential. The need for this equipment can never be over emphasised and is urgent at this point in time to ensure uninterrupted services.
"The Government needs to ensure all healthcare workers are protected at all levels, from the nurses, to the doctors, to the cleaners, to admin staff. The doctors we represent are willing to provide their services if the personal protective equipment is available at their work stations. We impress upon our employer to see the importance of all health care workers and the services we provide and to consider incentivising them in these times, as this is not an easy time for them as well," he said.
The minister, in his interview, echoed the sentiments of the doctors.
He said one of Government's priorities was to make sure that all healthcare workers are taken care of during this crisis period.
"First of all, I want to advise health workers that Government is working very hard to make sure that not even a single member of the health care workforce gets sick or gets infected with Covid-19 while at work," said Dr Moyo.
The protective equipment was being distributed and allowances were being sorted out.
"Government is also realising that this is a very risky business. Everyone is scared of Covid-19 but the healthcare workers are there to make sure that everyone is taken care of. Therefore, there has to be a risk allowance. The Minister of Finance has been instructed to make sure that the health workers are given a risk allowance. Their various associations are going to be sitting down with the Health Services Board to make sure that a package is put up," said Dr Moyo.
Meanwhile, Government yesterday cleared up an ambiguity in a previous statement and said the third confirmed case of Covid-19 had no contact with the second case. The figure of confirmed cases remains at three with 96 others taken for testing coming out negative.
In its daily update, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said the third case was a man who travelled from Dubai on March 15. He is being fully co-operative and is helping the health teams trace all his contacts since his return, said the daily update statement.