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Depressed medics treating COVID-19 lack psycho-social support

Screening of health workers for mental health problems is needed so as to link them up with psycho-social service providers.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Over 60 percent of health workers involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients who developed psychological challenges are experiencing difficulties finding therapy. This is according to a new study by the Makerere University College of Health Sciences.

Dr Richard Muhindo who was the principal investigator on the study sought to establish how ready the health system is in taking care of health workers psycho-social needs as they handle COVID-19 cases, he says they found five in every ten health workers to have experienced either stress, anxiety, fear or depression and worse these at 60% couldn’t find therapy for their psychological problems.

The survey was conducted among health workers at Entebbe Grade B hospital, Arua, Mbale and Hoima regional referral hospitals in addition to Mulago National Referral Hospital between August and October.

Muhindo recommends hospitals to design specific interventions to give health workers psycho-social support as many of them expressed worry about infecting families with revelations that when they were being trained before being deployed in the COVID-19 wards, the focus was on how to deal with patients with no tips for safeguarding their mental health as they offer care.

Muhindo says that there should be a regular screening of health workers such that those that need care can be linked up with psycho-social service providers.

Dr Hafisa Lukwata who heads the mental health division acknowledges the inaccessibility to mental health services as a general problem. She said it’s not just a problem for health workers but COVID-19 has affected many people and led to an increased number of patients opting for services at the limited facilities such as Butabika hospitals where patient numbers doubled with the onset of the pandemic.

Lukwata says they are now moving to bring services closer to the people by developing a model where mental health services can be accessed at the community level by the psycho-social service providers that they are currently training.

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