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The Heroes of our Time: Health care workers at the frontline of COVID 19

Globally, medical personnel are the frontline fighters of COVID-19 putting their lives at risk to save others. Recently, the UN chief addressed and appreciated health workers of all categories ranging from nurses, doctors, drivers, cleaners, midwives, technicians, paramedics, pharmacists, drivers, administrators and many others for their selfless efforts to treat and provide necessary services to patients during this pandemic.

Mortality among healthcare workers

Since the emergence of this pandemic, over 100 health professionals have died globally as of the 4th of April 2020,  Italy — at least 66, China — at least 13, U.K. — at least 5, France — at least 5, Spain — at least 5, Iran — at least 3, U.S. — at least 1, Greece — at least 1, Poland — at least 1, Pakistan — at least 1

Figure 1 - Mortalité des travailleurs de la santé dans certaines régions du monde

Figure 1 – Mortalité des travailleurs de la santé dans certaines régions du monde

Africa’s Situation

The advent of the coronavirus has further complicated the health system and it could get worse in Africa that has a weak health system. Predictions from WHO indicate that Africa could be the next epicenter for the outbreak after the US.  Given the ravaging effects of this virus in other parts of the world, this prediction breathes panic as to what our situation will be like in Africa if the forecasts happens to be true. Healthcare workers who are at the forefront need to be adequately prepared to face this daunting task. The recommendation is for all staff to be protected but the reality is hardly true especially during this pandemic where there is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). In some cases staff rely on “do it yourself” protection gear because PPE needs to be rationed due to a global shortage. This becomes distressing as many healthcare workers have reportedly died from COVID 19 in Africa. Africa cannot afford to lose Doctors given the fact that it has already been suffering from inadequate health personnel. One doctor’s death in Africa is a loss to more than 10,000 people. This is a great call for concern as there need to protect health care providers as they save lives.

The situation in Cameroon

Cameroon ranks as one of the countries with the highest number of Coronavirus cases in Africa. As of the 24th of April 2020, the country had recorded 1,430 confirmed cases, 43 deaths and 668 recoveries and 40 health personnel are infected and some have died from this disease. The first Doctor was an otorhinolaryngology specialist, who died in the line of duty on the 5th of April in Douala after contracting the virus. At least one other doctor in Cameroon has died from COVID-19 since then. It is quite understandable that many healthcare workers are now worried about their safety as the pandemic rides on.

The wide spread inaccessibility to adequate supplies of PPE for health care workers makes things worse especially in the context where many nations find difficulty to rapidly and adequately make financial allocations to the fight against COVID-19 on an already voted 2020 budget. As a result, many health facilities are struggling to meet up with the daily task of providing a minimal of face masks to their workers. Many healthcare workers are obliged to buy PPE for themselves from already restricted resources. In the wake of these happenings however, the Minister of Public Health Dr. Manaouda Malachie, like several other political and administrative figures worldwide, has applauded health care providers in Cameroon for their bravery and determination.

We can’t afford to lose our Health Care Workers

At this critical time, healthcare workers need PPE more than ever before so that they can be safe while saving lives. There is also the need for financial motivation, psychological support and a reinforcement of staff strength where possible. Furthermore, this would be an ideal time to make medical care for healthcare workers free of charge in Cameroon.

The virus continues to spreads so stay home and when it is absolutely necessary to go out, always wear a mask. That is great cry from health workers around the world.