COVID-19 Surge: African Health Ministers Discuss Importing Health Workers

Written by on June 30, 2021

Ministers attending the World Health Summit Africa Regional Meeting have agreed that sharing health workers could help them beat the COVID-19 pandemic that is in the more  deadly second and third wave in many countries on the continent.

Uganda’s Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Monica Musenero expressed need for external experts to help with the pandemic saying that previously Ugandan epidemiologists have intervened elsewhere including herself when she traveled to West Africa at the height of the Ebola epidemic.

“Even with the strain in the number of health workers now, Uganda has not yet had any external health workers come in,” she said.

Unlike Uganda, Equatorial Guinea’s Minister for Health and Social Services, Dr. Vicente Diosdado revealed at the annual global meeting that for the first time ever this week they have imported up to 70 health workers from Cuba.

Dr. Diosdado said their own health workers alone couldn’t manage the shift that is recommended when dealing with COVID-19 care especially with the mental strain and the risk of infection that comes with the disease.

The World Health Organization recommends for health workers involved in clinical management of COVID-19 to work in four hourly shifts but in many countries this is not possible with the shortage of health workers.

In Uganda for instance, the Uganda Medical Association has pointed out that some of the health workers work for more than seven hours and yet with shortages of Personal Protective Equipment and delayed payment of their risk allowances.

Health Minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng says some of key health workers have worked two years without visiting their homes partly due to the health human resources challenges.

Uganda has issued a request to the Public Service Ministry to hire about 700 health workers,  but not from out of the country.

However, like Guinea, Kenya too has had Cuba come to their rescue. Rashid Aman, Kenya’s Health Minister said they have had 50 of their doctors get training in the south American country which came with a perk of a donation of their own health workers.

While this human resource donation has gone back, Aman says African countries could consider doing an exchange programme covering gaps where colleagues are not doing well to give seniority.

On his part, Dr. Mangwiro John Chamunorwa, Zimbabwe’s Health Minister urged his colleagues to first pay attention to the challenges that their own doctors face which seem to be cutting across many countries on the continent.

He mentioned that they are currently facing an acute shortage of specialists in the country side which has left these places being manned by young doctors who are short of experience to handle epidemics.

He said, the shortage of personal protective equipment for health workers has just made the problem worse.

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