Over 250 health workers infected, ministry reports

Thursday, July 9th, 2020 00:00 |
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe (right) presents a donation of ventilators, masks and medical googles to Makueni deputy Governor Adelina Mwau at the County Covid-19 treatment centre, yesterday. Photo/PD/Peter Mutuku

Noah Cheploen and Reuben Mwambingu

Some 257 health workers across the country have contracted the coronavirus disease while in the line of duty, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe revealed yesterday.

At the same time, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 8,528 after 278 more people turned positive from 3,058 samples tested in the last 24 hours. On the other hand, the number of people who have been tested now stands at 196,508.

“It is important to note that, among those already exposed to the virus are our healthcare workers who continue to work under difficult conditions and circumstances as they offer critical service to our people,” he said.

“For all those who have been exposed, I want to assure them that the Government is committed to ensuring that all our front line soldiers are protected at all times by making available the necessary PPEs and other commodities,” he assured.

He commended health workers for putting their lives in the line while trying to save lives in various hospitals and health facilities.

“There can never be a higher level of individual sacrifice than this is a nation, we are all indebted to you,” said Kagwe.

Speaking in Makueni County, said four of the infected health workers are from the Kivutha Kibwana-led county, which he said was ranked 12th in terms of national infections load.

Kagwe made the remarks even as it emerged that 47 health workers in Mombasa County have tested positive for Coronavirus, which was first reported in the country in mid-March.

County Head of Nursing Emily Mwaringa, revealed at least a half of the affected health workers are nurses working in both public and private facilities in the coastal town. 

In an interview at a function in Technical University of Mombasa, Mwaringa cited inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) as a major key factor that led to exposure of the health workers to the deadly virus.

“Majority of those affected work within the facilities because they do not have the PPEs.

Most of those affected are not those in the extreme frontline collecting samples or nursing patients in the word,” explained Mwaringa in an interview.

Major challenge 

According to the nursing chief, shortage of PPEs posed a major challenge in the fight against Covid-19, in Mombasa, which has recorded 1,646 cases so far.

“The PPEs are expensive and they are of high usage in that you must put them on whenever you get into the ward to assess a patient. They are only used once and disposed of immediately,” Mwaringa said.

She appealled for intervention from the government and other partners to assist in the provision of PPEs, saying once the health workers get exposed to the virus, they will pose risk to other patients seeking services at the facilities.

“This Covid-19 crisis will not end today or tomorrow. So we need the PPEs to protect our health workers as they fight on,” she said, adding: “If they keep on contracting the virus and being taken to quarantine or isolation wards, it means the unseen enemy will continue visiting havoc upon us.”

Meanwhile, Kagwe assured county governments that they will receive all the support they require as the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic moves to the regions—and, the grassroots.

Speaking when he led a team of high-ranking central government officials to assess the level of preparedness in Makueni, Kagwe said that his ministry is going to offer counties the necessary support needed to combat the disease.

One of the areas the ministry is supporting counties, he said, is through training of health care workers—commonly referred to as front liners—and helping them upgrade their health facilities to handle the expected surge in Coronavirus patients.  

“I am here with the officers from the ministry to be in solidarity with the people of Makueni in this fight against Covid-19, and to determine the nature of support the county requires to upgrade the healthcare facilities,” he said. The CS presented Makueni County government with three ventilators, 50,000 gloves, 8,750 shoe covers, 1,200 facemasks and an assortment of PPEs for health personnel there.

Noting that his ministry was working closely with devolved units, Kagwe announced that they have already hired 252 healthcare personnel of different cadres to boost human resource capacity, adding that the process to hire additional 110 workers has commenced.

He said that Makueni has already achieved the 300-bed capacity isolation wards in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive. “Makueni is extremely organised and has demonstrated a high standard of readiness,” he said.

Kagwe said his team was impressed with the level of preparedness in a number of counties adding, however, that some are already lagging behind. He urged counties to prioritise the issue of personnel.

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