As the deadly COVID -19 pandemic ramps up its attack on people’s lives and livelihoods, new statistics shows that frontline workers bear the brunt of the virus, with 168 nurses estimated to have tested positive since the onset of the disease. During that period, four lost their lives to COVID-19.
Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) President, Obonolo Rahube is a worried man about the state of affairs. “This is one of the most testing times of our profession,” he told Mmegi this week. “Our regions are recording high numbers of Covid. “Our members’ lives are at risk because they are trying hard to save other people’s lives as this is the nature of their job,”he said.
According to BONU statistics, in Kgalagadi 24 nurses tested positive, another 43 in Francistown, Lobatse/Molepolole 31, Selebe-Phikwe/Bobonong 20 and Gaborone 50. All the cases are related to nurses carrying out their duties. “What is most painful to our members is that they are now forced to work long hours due to the current workload which has worsened the situation,” Rahube said.
Unlike individuals who are allowed who are told to go on self isolation when they are on contact tracing while awaiting the Covid -19 results, nurses do not have that luxury but are required to work until the results are out, according to the union president. Rahube argued that this is the time when government could be calling or engaging all retired nurses to help the frontline.
He said government could also employ more nurses who have graduated so that they could assist. According to the union president, some nurses have not been going on leave due to staff shortages in clinics or hospitals. The danger nurses are facing is worsened by the fact that some clinics are small and the healthcare workers are forced to crowd with patients, with little ability
“Again this is the time we should be having those small committees in the villages that assisted during HIV/AIDS. “Those community based committees helped to educate the public on how they could take of a patient. “They can still be used to help to educate the public on how to take care of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19,” Rahube said.
BONU, meanwhile, has engaged a Sociologist to counsel all nurses who have tested positive through phone calls. In addition the union president said the affected nurses are being provided with food hampers and also P5,000 interest free loans in case of need. “When someone has tested positive, his/her usual lifestyle automatically stops,” Rahube said. “Mind you some are taking care of their parents or siblings and therefore there will be no one to look after them while they are on quarantine or admitted at the hospital.
“As a union we try to assist where possible through our regions which normally assess the situation.” Nurses are also concerned that issues around the risk allowance they were due to receive remain unresolved.
According to Rahube, the Ministry of Health is delaying to address and keeps on postponing crucial meetings. “Even with all these problems, I am appealing to our members not to abandon hospitals and clinics because our patients need us the most at this time’,”he said.