By Royal Ibeh,
With a total of 46,206 health workers reported to be infected with COVID-19 in Africa, stakeholders in the health sector, have called for greater investment in the health workforce and promotion of access to healthcare by all.
Stakeholders, at the 2nd webinar series of the Commonwealth Medical Association, (CMA), entitled: “The Common Wealth Health Workforce & COVID-19 pandemic: Regional Perspectives on the Current Realities, Challenges and Future Projections”, said the call is to forestall the growing threat and barriers towards the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as proposed under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.
The President, CMA, Dr Osahon Enabulele, said the impact of COVID-19 on the health workforce has been enormous, adding that Commonwealth countries contribute about 15 percent of the global figure of persons infected with Covid-19.
“While we note there has been the varied impact of the pandemic on various aspects of the economy and aspect of life, the impact on the health workforce has been very tremendous with unfortunate morbidities and mortalities among healthcare workers.
“According to statistics from the WHO, COVID-19 related deaths among health workers are about 10 percent of the global mortality due to the disease. In the Africa region, which has the worst health workforce crisis globally with only about 3 percent global health workforce, a total of 46,206 health workers are reported to be infected with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, September 2, 2020,” he added.
Enabulele said the situation was further worsened by the impact of the health workforce migration even during this COVID-19 on account of unmet expectations, poor motivation, poor adherence to infection prevention and control measures, and of course guidelines. Despite the foregoing realities including nonexistence of COVID-19 vaccine or drugs, healthcare workers are expected to remain combat soldiers in the war against the pandemic, he said.
The CMA president said the objective of the webinar was therefore to unfold the varied experiences and perspectives of health workers from commonwealth countries and various regions as it concerns the health workforce, particularly, in terms of identifying current gaps and challenges and developing a consensus framework that will help identify gaps now and post COVID era with the overall aim of boosting current efforts at defeating COVID-19.
Corroborating his views, the Director, Department of Health Workforce of WHO, Mr. Jim Campbell lamented distractions in the attainment of UHC. In his view, Campbell said many health workers have been redeployed to the intensive care facilities amongst others, resulting to the elasticity of the capacity being overstretched.
He said essential services have been reduced due to health workers redeployment and infection. “We are also experiencing the reality of health workforce trauma, additional workload, managing stress, discrimination and stigma etc. Some rebel and strike around the condition of work, the opportunity to be protected at work and issues around PPEs and this is resulting into mortalities beyond levels experienced in other places.
“We must invest in health workforce as part of the trillion and billions of dollars invested in the social-economic development around the world if we are to recover from COVID and maintain access to healthcare access to all,” he asserted.
On his part, the Prof, Rasaq Adebayo, who represented the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Prof Innocent Ujah called for enhanced funding to provide healthcare infrastructure, equipment and essential medications etc., adding that “We also need the voices of citizens, especially civil society organizations and the media. We should demand better funding, stewardship, supervision, capacity utilization, and coordination of the health sector in Nigeria and other West African countries.”