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Gov’t asked to set up special Covid-19 isolation centres for medical workers

Health workers attend to a critically ill Covid-19 patient. File Photo

Medics have called for special isolation centres for health workers to receive free services when they contract COVID-19 in line of duty

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Unionists have asked the government to copy from their regional neighbours and reign in on ensuring that health workers get timely treatment when they get infected with Covid-19.

Dr Aggrey Sanya, the Secretary-General of Uganda Medical Workers Union who was speaking to journalists on Monday said that Kenya has set up special isolation centres for health workers, where they receive free services when they contract COVID-19 in line of duty.

The doctor said they have recently lost members as they searched for places to enroll them on oxygen treatment, yet for those that were still in critical care, colleague health workers resolved to embark on fundraising campaigns to sponsor them through the same treatment that they offer.

Just last week, following stories of health workers failing to afford critical care services and others being detained in private facilities for failure to pay, Victoria Hospital had to write off a bill of more than 25 million Shillings for Dr John Baptist Mukasa, a senior consultant neurosurgeon who succumbed to the viral respiratory disease.

The health workers say this is not sustainable and government ought to come up with a solution or else health workers will soon start staying away from duty for fear of getting infected. Dr Rodrigo Nyinoburyo for instance says a colleague spent three weeks in ICU and his family were charged 100 million Shillings after he died shortly after he was weaned from ICU.

He says his colleagues were forced to contribute to clear the bill for the body to be released.

In the last three weeks, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) says they have lost 16 specialists to COVID-19 whereas thousands of other health workers have tested positive for the disease. In a memo to members on Friday, UMA President Dr Richard Idro asked health workers to stay away from hospitals, if they don’t have the necessary Personal Protective Equipment since their calls to the Ministry of Health to avail them protective gear had gone unanswered.

Idro revealed that they had talked to regional referral hospitals to select a focal person to ensure that health workers are prioritized for care once they fall critically ill. As it is now, however, unionists say even as the government has placed an advert to hire more personnel to work in COVID-19 wards, it’s hard to attract especially young doctors.

Usher Owere, the General Secretary of the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) says treating the health workers in the same places where they have seen others die can be quite devastating. He too recommends having a special treatment centre for health workers that need critical care.

On his part, Sanya says Uganda has blundered by continuously ignoring health insurance as this could have helped cover expenses for health workers. He says the government should pay even for health workers who end up in private facilities for treatment of COVID-19.

However, according to Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwiine, there’s a law that provides for compensation of workers when they are injured or infected in line of duty and that Workers’ Compensation Act of 2006 will be followed for compensation of health workers too. Meanwhile, since the first wave, health workers have been pushing for a special package that has since failed to come through.

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