Kenya: 429 Healthcare Workers Now Infected With COVID-19, 41 at Pumwani

Testing for coronavirus is carried out at Kenya Coast National Polytechnic.

A total of 429 health workers have tested positive for Covid-19, with the latest being staff at Kenya's largest maternity referral hospital.

Forty-one workers at Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi have been tested positive for the coronavirus, 19 of whom are health workers.

The government has said that it will not shut down the facility but will instead set up an isolation centre for the staff who cannot self-isolate.

"We have 429 staff members who have tested positive, which is about 4.1 per cent of all the cases, and we want to set up isolation centres to make sure the staff are well taken care of in the event that they test positive for Covid-19," acting Health Director-General Patrick Amoth said.

HOME-BASED CARE

All the staff who tested positive at Pumwani are under home-based care since all were asymptomatic, and with no pre-existing conditions.

The announcement by the Health ministry comes a day after doctors buried one of their own, Doreen Lugaliki, who died from Covid-19. Two nurses have also succumbed to the disease.

Rising infections among health workers have been linked to several risk factors, including contact with infected patients.

"A majority of these workers have not been trained on how to manage Covid-19 patients and do not have the N95 masks and protective equipment. They are using the surgical masks so, if they interact with asymptomatic patients, they stand a high chance of getting infected," said Mr George Gibore, secretary-general of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco).

SHORTAGE OF N95 MASKS

Because of the shortage of N95 masks in the country, he said, health care workers are given only one mask for 24 hours, against the World Health Organisation recommended period of five hours.

"When they use it the whole day and sweat on it and touch it, this can be another form of transmission if they had touched a contaminated surface," he said.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) acting Secretary-General Chibanzi Mwachonda said a majority of these infections are from contact with infected patients, which further reinforces concern over the provision of adequate and quality personal protective equipment (PPEs).

He called upon the national government and counties to employ more workers to reduce the workload, which could also increase the infection rate.

MORE WORKERS NEEDED

"When one works for about 14 hours just taking care of patients, more so the ones in intensive care unit, they risk getting infected," he said.

He said an additional 1,000 nurses, 360 clinical officers, 527 laboratory personnel and 636 doctors across the three cadres (pharmacists, dentists and medical doctors) will be required.

The Secretary-General of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco), Mr Maurice Opetu, said the equipment delivered to the health workers in Kisumu were of poor quality, putting them at high risk of contracting the virus.

He said the equipment had been tested by the technical team and been found wanting. "We are in this together, but in order to protect the lives of Kenyans and health workers, we must ensure that the equipment is validated and certified," he said.

INFECTION ROUTES

The results of a study published in the BioMed Central to explore the perceived infection routes for healthcare workers revealed that most of them are infected when attending to patients.

The study reported that lack of personal protective equipment and exposure to infected patients mainly through work in high-risk departments and contaminated fluid and aerosols as some of the factors that have contributed to health workers getting infected with the coronavirus.

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