Health Reporter

Another 500 nurses and 49 junior doctors have been deployed to five central hospitals designated as Covid-19 centres after the recent spike in new infections.

In an update yesterday on staffing of the specialised wards, the Health Services Board (HSB) said 500 nurses and 49 junior doctors have been deployed to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospitals and Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital.

The wards had been partially staffed to deal with the patient load when infection rates fell in the last few months of last year, but now more staff need to be deployed.

Most Covid-19 patients do not need hospital care, but those showing more severe symptoms or in high risk groups do need to be moved into special wards.

HSB executive chairperson Dr Paulinus Sikosana said the deployments were designed to ease pressure on public health care institutions.

“The Health Service Board and Ministry of Health and Child Care have put in place a number of initiatives which include the deployment of 49 junior medical doctors to five central hospitals. With Treasury authority, the Health Services Board is employing an additional 500 nurses,” said Dr Sikhosana.

“The available 200 nurses have already been deployed with 80 to Parirenyatwa (30 of whom will support Wilkins Infectious Hospital), 70 to United Bulawayo Hospitals (20 to support Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital) and 50 to Matabeleland South (to support the surge from border crossings),” he said.

The other 300 will be deployed once information on those that passed their examinations and registration by the Nursing Council is available.

“This is in addition to the allocation of additional health workers to these institutions during the first wave of the epidemic whereby eight medical doctors, 54 nurses, 24 nurse aides and 24 general hands were allocated to Parirenyatwa Hospital. During the first wave, UBH was allocated seven medical doctors, 28 nurses, 12 nurse aides and 12 general hands,” he said.

Dr Sikosana said Government is encouraging local manufacturers to ramp up production of personal protective equipment.

This comes at a time when the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe has granted the Health Ministry authority to shorten the bidding time for the procurement of medical oxygen from 20 days to two days.

This still allows approved suppliers to be told of the tender and to get their bids in very quickly. The prior vetting of potential suppliers by the authority means that all those asked to bid are considered suitable suppliers.

Dr Sikosana noted that the doctors and nurses were in the frontline with more than three percent already having tested positive.

“We note with great concern that out of close to 50 000 members of the health service, 1 547 health workers are reported to have tested positive for infection by Covid-19, and that seven are reported to have succumbed to the infection.

“The board does not take this lightly and puts every effort to ensure that members are appropriately trained in and practice infection prevention and control procedures, are provided with adequate and appropriate personal protective equipment and receive appropriate counselling and support services,” he said.

The HSB is processing payments of the once off risk allowances for health workers that have tested positive for Covid-19, as well as the other related benefits the workers are entitled to.

All health workers in the public health sector including nurses, continue to receive their monthly Covid-19 risk allowances in line with the low-risk areas at $1 500, the medium risk at $2 250 and the high-risk category at $3 750.