Civil Servants and Allied Workers union of Zambia (CSAWUZ) president Davies Chiyobe has warned that failure to avail protective clothing to health workers in Nakonde might spark a revolt in the area as health workers are reportedly working without PPEs.
But Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Abel Kabalo says medical personnel, including himself, can never allow themselves to be exposed to COVID-19 by going to isolation centers without protective equipment.
In an interview, Chiyobe said the union had received complaints that there was inadequate protective gear in Nakonde.
“So the issue of PPEs, can we see that when we speak, and when people say donations are there, can they get on the ground. If they want to dispute, let them show evidence that this is what I have done. If what I am saying and what is happening on the ground is being disputed, can we show evidence to say on such such a day, we released so much masks. We are ever on the ground and the complaints are coming from our guys on the ground that PPEs are not there. And we should not reach an extent that the workers begin to revolt to say we are not going to touch these suspects because we don’t have PPEs, they are professionals yes but we cannot risk their lives,” Chiyobe said.
“On the ground, we continue to receive complaints, especially from members particularly in Nakonde, let me be categorical. The issue of PPEs, I think I don’t even know how we are going to speak, I don’t know how we are going to talk for the authorities to listen. The PPEs are not on the ground, we have several complaints especially from Nakonde, can we see something being done, can we see a truck being flagged that is going to Nakonde, we will stop talking. Can we see events where donations are being made, this has gone to this and that province, this has gone to this epicentre.”
He said even the Ministry of Health was aware that the number of infected health workers in Nakonde was on the rise.
“You don’t know, on the ground maybe there are people who are detractors but as long as we are kept blind, we cannot see what is going and the complaints are coming. We are forced to talk, we are not politicizing, it is not a matter of making a name but I think let reality with us is that the PPEs as per yesterday, the numbers are going up but the health workers are seriously complaining that they are working without masks, they are working without protective clothes and as a result, they are getting infected. I can’t release figures because I am not in an official position to do that but I can assure you the number of health workers who are getting infected in Nakonde is rising, everyone in the ministry is aware,” said Chiyobe.
But when contacted for a comment, Dr Kabalo said the ministry refuted Chiyobe’s assertions saying the ministry had provided adequate PPEs.
“No one can work without PPEs, especially those working in the places where we have COVID positive patients. No, we cannot risk. You don’t know health workers you have? No health worker can be subjected and he agrees to work without PPEs, not even me, I can’t, I can’t enter any of these isolation facilities without PPE, that’s the health worker that we have, there is no one actually who can actually enter any facility without PPE. So PPEs for those that are working in the frontline, PPE is basically available, masks, gowning up and I think these are expendable so the turnover is so high so we are replacing every time,” said Dr Kabalo.