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Protect health professional - a continuous priority amid COVID-19
21 July, 2020
The COVID-19 is progressing across the continent. African governments are taking measures to contain the pandemic and mitigate its direct and indirect effects. However, they have to put additional efforts to support the health professionals who are on the frontline to combat the COVID-19 while at the same time maintaining the essential health services
Although data on the number of health staff who have been infected or have died from COVID -19 remains unavailable, we know from past epidemics and anecdotes across the globe that this category of workers is directly and indirectly affected by the pandemic. The indirect effect, such as the risk of bringing the disease home and infecting their family is real and can be a source of stress for the health personnel and their families. Poorly managed, the health structures can become a source of contamination for both patients and health workers. Before the pandemic, healthcare-associated infection (HIA) was already a major global security issue for patients and healthcare professionals. This situation is particularly worrying for Africa, given the difficult working conditions in health facilities. Although significant transmission routes are through respiratory droplets and direct contact, available evidence has also confirmed the virus in some body fluids, including blood and stools, and potentially present in tears, oral swabs, and anal swabs.
Considering the strong possibility of the virus spreading between health workers and their patients, the virus can spread in the community as diagnostic procedures and patient care require proximity with patients. Given the need to preserve health workers for the health challenges to come (COVID-19 and non-COVID 19), the SDGCA calls on African leaders to take the following measures.
- Reinforce triage of patients in all primary, secondary, and tertiary health facilities. Regular updated COVID-19 symptoms will help both general and specialized clinics to adapt their practice of patient triage.
- Provide health facilities with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and avoid any stock shortage of these PPEs.
- Strengthen infection prevention and control (IPC) in all public and private health structures and provide dedicated staff and necessary materials. The health facilities must self-assess the IPC procedure in place and adjust if needed. The health authorities must undertake regular supervision in public and private health structures to ensure the implementation of these procedures and ensure continuing education on site.
- Set up a structure for psychological and social support for health workers.
- Ensure mandatory and periodic testing of COVID-19 for the health workers and take care of those who test positive.
- Accelerate the development of e-health and telemedicine to reduce the workload of healthcare professionals and limit the unnecessary visit of patients mainly for follow-ups.
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