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‘41,000 health workers infected with COVID-19 in Africa’

By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja))
18 September 2020   |   3:33 am
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that about 41,000 health workers have been infected with the dreaded coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across Africa.

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

The global health agency observed that frontline health workers are at greater risk of infection because of the care they provide to patients. It said COVID-19 pandemic had reaffirmed that to keep patients safe, health workers must be protected, and so this year’s theme is “Health Worker’s Safety: A Priority for Patient Safety”.

In a statement to commemorate the World Patient Safety Day, yesterday, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, 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.

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 among multidisciplinary health-care teams, patients and patients’ organizations, professional associations, and other stakeholders.

She argued that the tasks of enhancing patient’s safety are simple and cost-effective, stating that after a quality management unit was established in Sierra Leone, deaths among children in 13 high burden hospitals dropped from 15.6 per cent in 2017 to 9.6 per cent in 2019.

Moeti added that 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.

“On September 17, we celebrate World Patient Safety Day because to realise quality health care, the first step is to do no harm. Yet, in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries globally, every year, there are 134 million adverse events due to unsafe care, contributing to 2.6 million lives lost. 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.

“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,” Meoti said.

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,” the WHO official said.

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