THE Resident Doctors Association of Zambia (RDAZ) says it is frustrated with government’s casual approach to responding to health workers’ concerns.

In a statement, Monday, RDAZ president Dr Isaac Sakala urged government to urgently develop legislation that would ensure that any healthcare worker who may sustain a disability or perish as a result of contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty, be entitled to compensation.

“RDAZ wishes to express its dissatisfaction with the pace the Zambian government is taking in 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-19 outbreak. We are saddened that government has taken the usual approach to respond to the unusual matters of COVID-19. It is now close to two months since these concerns were presented to government and our expectation was that the matter would be treated with the urgency it requires. This has created a lot of panic among healthcare workers and the anxiety continues to grow with every new healthcare worker, who gets infected with COVID-19 disease,” Dr Sakala stated.

“In light of these facts, RDAZ calls upon government to: 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. Expedite the matter of incentives that will help address the logistical challenges and the unprecedented risk healthcare workers are experiencing during COVID-19 fight. 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. Abrupt changes in duty station and the requirement to undergo quarantine in isolation facilities after serving in COVID-19 response centres has presented logistical challenges for frontline doctors.”

Dr Sakala added that it was of critical importance to improve conditions of service as Healthcare workers may be affected by the scourge of the virus.

“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. RDAZ continues to track the development of the epidemic within the country and around the world, and notes that healthcare workers are among the disproportionately affected groups in terms of infection and mortality. The number of Zambian healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 continues to rise, and RDAZ feels that it is of critical importance to address conditions of service as they may be affected by the scourge of this disease,” he stated.

“All civil servants in Zambia are not covered under the current Workers Compensations Act, and all those employed after the year 2000 are not registered under the Public Service Compensation Fund for compensation. This leaves out almost 90 per cent of the healthcare workers with no cover for compensation in an event of calamity. Therefore, we urge 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 healthcare workers due to COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, Dr Sakala appreciated government’s efforts in ensuring the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“While we may not be there yet, RDAZ wishes to thank government for its continued efforts to ensure availability of PPE for healthcare workers in the face of global supply challenges. We look forward to continued fruitful engagement that will translate into victory in the fight against COVID-19. Together, we can!” stated Dr Sakala.