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41, 000 health workers infected with COVID-19 in Africa – WHO

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that about 41,000 health workers have been infected with the dreaded COVID-19 disease across Africa.

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It said that front-line health workers are at greater risk of infection because of the care they provide to patients adding that COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed that to keep patients safe, health workers must be protected.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who disclosed this in a statement to commemorate the World Patient Safety Day yesterday, stressed the need to urgently make healthcare safer by pursuing patient-centered policies, redesigning processes, ramping-up hygiene practices, and transforming organisational cultures because the lack thereof has led to the death of 2.6 million patients globally.

“In the African Region, more than 41,000 health workers have been infected with COVID-19, accounting for 3.8 percent of all reported cases,” Moeti said.

“Some countries, like Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire, have made progress in reducing the proportion of health worker infections. Others such as Eritrea, Rwanda, and Seychelles have not recorded a single case of COVID-19 among health workers.”

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Moeti stated that patient safety is an essential component in strengthening health systems to achieve universal health coverage, and achieving it requires collaboration and open communication between multidisciplinary health-care teams, patients and patients’ organizations, professional associations, and other stakeholders.

She argued that the solutions to enhance patient safety are simple and cost-effective adding that after a Quality Management Unit was established in Sierra Leone, deaths among children in 13 high burden hospitals dropped from 15.6 percent in 2017 to 9.6 percent in 2019 adding that action is needed to understand the magnitude of patient harm, including through transparent incident reporting to learn from mistakes with no-fault and no-blame handling of adverse events.

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Moeti added that in order to protect health workers from COVID-19 and contribute to enhanced patient safety, WHO in collaboration with partners and national and provincial authorities has trained more than 50 000 health workers in the African Region in infection prevention and control, with plans to train over 200 000 more.

According to her, about 31 million items of personal protective equipment have been shipped to the Member States and guidance documents on best care practices are in-development, to support the creation of enabling environments for safe health workers and safe patients.”

“Patients and their families must be enabled to take preventive, systematic measures to participate in improving the safety of care and to reduce risks to all individuals, with special attention to at-risk groups, including people with disabilities and older people.”

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