Buliisa health workers decry bad working conditions

Rural farmers at Muona village in Nsanje District, Malawi, asked to wash hands with soap before and after getting their entitlements from WFP on 24 March 2020. Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji

Health workers at Biiso Health Centre 3 in Buliisa District are unhappy at the poor working environment they are experiencing there.

Nurses and midwives among other workers at the health facility told our reporter that they do not have Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) essential for handling patients.

They fear that this exposes them to risks of contracting diseases especially the current coronavirus that is devastating the entire globe.

The health workers also complain that the health facility does not have any ambulance to transport referral cases.

One of them who did not want to be identified by the press accused the district health authorities of delaying to respond to their call in time when there is a case to manage at a higher level.

“What annoyed us most was when we contacted the District Rapid Response Team (DRRT) but no one responded in time yet there was a case reported to them. The woman from Piida village in Biiso sub-county was suspected to be a contact of a Covid-19 patient in Masindi,” the health worker said.

The health workers are also demanding their allowance arrears for the cholera vaccination exercise they conducted close to three weeks ago in the neighbouring Kihungya and Ngwedo sub-counties.

Such an appalling working condition forced the health workers to lay down their tools at mid-day on Tuesday leaving the patients stranded.

The industrial action prompted the district authorities to rush to the facility for a crisis meeting.

During the meeting, the acting in-charge of Biiso health centre, Mr David Lukum, informed the authorities that the facility lacks PPEs and an ambulance in addition to the outstanding allowances for the vaccination team.

“There is a concern that the health team is lacking PPEs such as gloves, face masks, sanitisers and a standby vehicle to handle emergencies among others. The few gloves that World Vision donated to us are now out of stock. The vaccination team including Village Health Teams want to be paid their allowance arrears,” he told the meeting.

WFP observing social distancing in line with 1.5 metres between each other at Savane Resettlement Centre, Dondo District, Sofala Province in Mozambique on 31 March 2020. Photo: WFP/Rafael Campos

In response, the District Health Officer, Dr Nelson Nyaise, apologised for the DRRT’s delay to respond to the suspected Covid-19 case saying they were overwhelmed. He also said his office does not have relatively enough vehicles to enable the team act swiftly for any emergency.

“The district was overwhelmed with cases reported on that day including the contact in Butiaba and a referral sent to Hoima Regional Referral Hospital,” he said without divulging the details about the cases he referred to.

“My office has only four vehicles attached to the emergency section but one is already down. Again my office is lacking fuel to enable quick response,” he added.

Mr Samuel Magambo, the Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, attributed the delay in settling the allowance arrears to the slowed down services in the Integrated Financial Management System that he said involves a lot of bureaucracy.

During the same meeting, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Amos Asiimwe, apologised for the delay in payouts giving the health team an ultimatum of two weeks for the authorities to have worked on their grievances.

Albeit this, the RDC urged the health workers to continue fighting coronavirus by sensitising the community about the virus and being exemplary to society by observing social distancing.

He called for calm among the residents in the entire district saying the Covid-19 contact suspect woman who was hiding at Piida village in Biiso sub-county was quarantined in Masindi.

The presidential representative warned the public against hiding contacts of Covid-19 suspects and patients or else be apprehended.

Mr Asiimwe instructed the DRRT to immediately follow up the contacts of the woman including her family members.


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