Coronavirus now spreads to Health Workers

Coronavirus now spreads to Health Workers

Kenya first health worker to contract coronavirus in the line of duty is a clinical officer who works at Ngara Health Centre, Nairobi.  

Her husband has also been confirmed positive. Both are admitted and isolated at the Kenyatta National Hospital IDU at Mbagathi.

Their children and househelp have been evacuated for isolation and testing.

The senior clinical officer, who has worked for about 25 years, had not been supplied with protective clothing. 

Her infection raises fear among thousands of Kenyan clinical officers and nurses, who are the first contacts with patients in health facilities. 

Different groups representing health workers now say they are exposed to the virus in their daily work and it is possible hundreds of them and their families will become victims of the virus.

"The [sick] clinical officer has been performing her duties in the outpatient and you can understand the anguish she is going through knowing she may have infected her family," secretary-general of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers George Gibore said. 

Experience from other countries shows that frontline health workers bear the brunt of infections.

For instance, of the 85,195 infected people by Tuesday in Spain, 12,300 were frontline health workers, mainly nurses.

 "In high-risk counties, 90 per cent of clinical officers who are frontline workers and who suffer the highest risks have not been trained," Gibore said at a press conference yesterday. 

Nurses say more than 50 per cent of them across the country lack protective equipment. 

 "The counties have tried but there is still a big shortage, especially of the N95 masks. Most nurses at the outpatient departments do not have them," Joseph Ngwasi said. He is the national chairman of the Kenya National Union of Nurses. 

He says Covid-19 general awareness has been done well, but the technical training is wanting. 

"There is a big gap in training nurses on how to collect and handle specimens for testing, and the entirety of that process," he said. 

According to the president of the Global Association of Clinical Officers and Physician Assistants, nurses and COs are the most exposed health workers to Covid-19.

"World Health Organisation has acknowledged 90 per cent of the Ebola response in Africa was by clinical officers and nurses, and this is likely to be the case for other infectious diseases," Gacopa president Austin Oduor said. 

Veteran respiratory and infectious diseases specialist Joseph Aluoch told the Star that non-medical staff like cleaners and security guards in health facilities also need protection. 

"For health workers, you need PPEs and training. Doctors have already been trained and protocols on how to deal with patients already exist," he said. 

"However, people like cleaners and those who interact with patients and the quarantined persons also need PPEs."

Several health workers at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi are under quarantine after possibly being exposed to the virus last week.

"Kenya will need to deliberately put in place protocols to deal with the exposure of healthcare workers to Covid-19," Dr Majid Twahir, associate dean, clinical services at the hospital, told the Star. 

He said Kenya can learn from South Korea, which has not recorded any death of healthcare worker as a result of being exposed to infected patients.



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