PPE in short supply as COVID-19 worsens

Nurses. PIC PHATSIMO KAPENG.
Nurses. PIC PHATSIMO KAPENG.

Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) president Obonolo Rahube has warned that the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in hospitals may worsen the current COVID-19 situation for nurses in the workplace if not addressed.

Speaking during a media briefing this week, Rahube requested the Ministry of Health and Wellness to ask for supplementary funds to buy resources that are important in hospitals and PPE clothing. If not addressed, the nurses fear for the worst to come. Currently, the country is registering high numbers of COVID-19 infections and related deaths.

By July 20, 2021, the country had registered 1,485 death cases, 3,897 new positive cases, and 87,517 recoveries.

“There is no way nurses can deliver on their work when they do not have protective clothing. The lives of nurses are at risk because they are the ones who assist patients. Who expects a nurse to assist a patient when he/she does not have a mask or gloves on? PPEs are inadequate, especially in most areas such as Chobe, Gweta, and Okavango. As BONU when the COVID-19 pandemic started last year, we called for a meeting with the Director of Health Services trying to advise them on how the country should be prepared. The ministry did not take our advice seriously and now we are headed for a disaster. When we visited some clinics in the Okavango area, we found that they do not have gowns. Also, it is not clear how they are supposed to assist COVID-19 patients,” Rahube said.


In addition, the BONU president said in Ramokgwebana, a nurse at the border works two days non-stop without a break. On other issues, the union said the savingram written by Dr Tshepo Machacha should be withdrawn since it is not helping in the fight against COVID-19.

In his savingram, Machacha said: "You are advised to stop isolation of COVID-19 patients in private facilities with immediate effect. We should do home isolation, where it is not possible to isolate in public facilities".

When commenting on the issue, Rahube said the savingram is very disturbing because it has health implications, "imagine a nurse who is sharing a room goes home. They will infect their roommates. We have people in our country who are of low social status where six people share a room, therefore, if one gets infected and goes home to isolate in that room, the rest can also be positive. Then we will have more cases of COVID-19 like before.”

He revealed that Machacha had forgotten that the health fraternity has failed to provide nurses with adequate accommodation, for example at Khauxhwi village three nurses share a two bedroomed house without electricity.

The union leaders said they no longer see the need to have Presidential Task Force and called for it to be dissolved. The union added that the money used to pay Presidential Task Force members should be diverted to other resources, which could help in the fight against COVID-19.

BONU leadership said the Ministry of Health and Wellness should be the one handling issues of COVID-19 to avoid confusion and to ensure that necessary resources are bought.

“The reason why we have a shortage of oxygen is because of these two centres of power. Even staff at the Intensive Care Unit is not trained, at least not well enough to deal with COVID-19 issues,” he said. The union president said recently 23 nurses succumbed to COVID-19.

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