The Resident Doctors Association of Zambia (RDA) has expressed dissatisfaction with the pace at which the Zambian Government is responding to the concerns that healthcare workers have expressed about being able to work safely and with assurance of Government’s support during the COVID-19outbreak.
The Association, which has over 3 000 members, comprising doctors located in both public and private institutions across the country, says that it is saddened that government has taken the usual approach to respond to the unusual matters of covid-19.
Dr Isaac Sakala, the Association President says it is now close to two months since these concerns were presented to government and Doctors expectation was that the matter would be treated with the urgency it requires.
He said the failure by government to act has created a lot of panic among health care workers and the anxiety continues to grow with every new healthcare worker who gets infected with Covid-19 disease.
Dr Sakala said the Healthcare workers working at the frontline of the COVID-19 response are suffering stigma, fatigue, psychological stress, long working hours, and extended periods of separation from their children and families.
He said the abrupt changes in duty station and the requirement to undergo quarantine in isolation facilities after serving in COVID-19 response centers has presented logistical challenges for frontline doctors.
Dr Sakala said in addition to these reported challenges, healthcare workers many of whom are in the early stages of their careers have expressed concern about how their children and families will be supported in the event that one sustains a disability or loses their life following a COVID-19 infection.
He said the Association continues to track the development of the epidemic within the country and around the world, and notes that health care workers are among the disproportionately affected groups in terms of infection and mortality.
Dr Sakala said the number of Zambian healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 continues to rise, and they feel that it is of critical importance to address conditions of service as they may be affected by the scourge of this disease.
He said all Civil Servants in Zambia are not covered under the current Workers Compensations Act and all those employed after the year 2 000 are not registered under the Public Service Compensation Fund for compensation.
Dr Sakala said this leaves out almost 90% of the healthcare workers with no cover for compensation in an event of calamity.
He has since urged the government to take advantage of the narrow window that still exists and ride on the good will of the healthcare workers as the situation has the potential to get out of hand the day we will start to record mortality of health care workers due to covid-19.
Dr Sakala said government must urgently Develop legislation that will ensure that any healthcare worker who may sustain a disability or even dies as a result of contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty be entitled to compensation.
He said Government must also expedite the matter of incentives that will help address the logistical challenges and the unprecedented risk healthcare workers are experiencing during Covid-19 fight.
Dr Sakala said while the Government might not be there yet, he has thanked them for continued efforts to ensure availability of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers in the face of global supply challenges.
He said the Association is looking forward to continued fruitful engagement that will translate into victory in the fight against COVID-19.