Okong says if approved, the number of health worker stock to handle the viral respiratory disease will rise up to over a thousand since they had highest slightly more than 300 personnel during the first wave of infection last year.
The government plans to hire up to 700 health workers to handle
COVID-19 cases at the various public health facilities across the country.
Prof. Pius Okong, the Chairperson of the Health Service Commission
says that the Ministry of Health has already written to the Ministry of Public
Service requesting clearance to fill the gap.
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Okong says if approved, the number of health workers to handle
patients will rise to over a thousand since they had hired slightly more than
300 personnel during the first wave of infection.
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However Dr Diana Atwiine, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of
Health had issued an appeal to health workers through the Uganda Medical
Association (UMA) for health workers that are not employed by the government to
come in and volunteer.
Asked about how far this appeal has gone, Dr Muhereza Mukuzi, the
UMA General Secretary said while they acknowledge the huge need, it was a tough
call for health workers since even as they volunteer, they need lunch
allowances, transport and Personal Protective Equipment which of late has been
scarce even for health workers that are paid.
Mukuzi said while they considered volunteerism, the government was
non-committal on whether they would avail them what they need to work
effectively such as protective gear and a living allowance.
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Mukuzi urges the government to urgently tackle the issue of health
workers, especially that the recommended number of health worker to patient
ratios is appalling and doctors are being overworked.
He says for instance in the general ward where patients may not
need a lot of attention, the ideal would be to have one health worker per 20
patients. Five patients in the High Dependency Unit (HDU) should be taken care
of by two doctors whereas, in the Intensive Care Unit, there should a health
worker per patient, Mukuzi says.
He was sceptical though that the government can fill these vacant positions,
especially that many hospitals across the country have been operating without
key specialists and the required health worker stock even under normal
Currently, however, at Mulago Specialized National Referral
Hospital which also houses the highest number of COVID-19 admissions, Dr
Baterena Byarugaba the Executive Director says they were given 150 health
workers last year during the first pandemic.
With the crisis at its highest now, he says they need a boast of
about 200 other health workers if they are to follow the guidelines of rotating
the health workers in shifts of not working for more than four hours each day.