OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS IN OUR HEALTH SECTOR
It is agreed by all that the current state of African health systems leave much to be desired. African health systems, as a whole, are crippled right from public health education and other primary prevention methods through to tertiary prevention methods. As a result of the consistent lack of generational thinkers and planners; as a result of political leaders lacking the basic sense of priority to invest more resources is their nation’s state of health, we perish needlessly. “Health is the primary duty of life”, as eloquently relayed in Lady Bracknell’s monologue by Oscar Wilde in ‘The importance of being earnest”. Health is a priority; even more so is the health of the health provider. It is also worth noting also that we have so few of such persons.
Many hazards pose a great threat to the health providers we have littered across the continent. In my country where doctors are overworked in exchange for meagre returns and conditions of service. Increasing stress levels which proves detrimental to the health worker’s health. Yet they endure all to serve the needs of the people, whom they tend to prize above their own lives.
Enslaved by their passion to provide good health services to their people, they now find themselves working in a very unsafe environment where they are at risk of contracting the very diseases they seek to cure.
With no deliberate intention to open past and healing wounds, allow me to cite as example the recent cataclysm we suffered as a continent. The dreaded Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. In 2014, when it’s cruel head reared in Sierra Leone. The violent wave swept with it over 11 doctors from the country alone; chief of whom was the country’s senior most doctor, Dr. Victor Willoughby. In total, a mouth gaping 350 health workers were lost to the disease before the end of December that same year. A large percent of these deaths could have been avoided if the health providers who worked around the clock to save lives had basic protection gears and aids to protect them from direct contact with the rambunctious virus.
At the onset of the disease the nation was completely unguarded. Health workers of course had been dying of smaller work related infections. But they did little to provide the health workers with the necessary protection gears, suits, gloves, etc. until disaster struck in catastrophic proportions. Exposing the health workers to hazardous doom in its purest form.
African has to value the lives of its health workers, especially seeing how few we are. Congenial conditions must be created, to make working in a hospital environment safe. There was strong media coverage on a story in a Teaching Hospital in my own country ,Ghana, the hospital’s name I would withhold for obvious reasons. The Teaching Hospital run out of simple basic materials like gloves etc. for several days, maybe weeks even. This puts the doctors and health workers in a very dire situation. The health worker’s attempt to save a life could cost him his very own.
I bellow for a wakeup call. The political leadership, the influencers of policy, the hands that steer the national reins must refocus their attention to the health sector. The leadership of Africa must wake up to its dying health workers. No one deserves to die over a matter of gloves. Years of medical schooling and training wasted because no one provided the health workers with the basic necessities to protect their own selves.
I do not sound horns of doom. With my literary torch, I point to a future where health is improved in Africa. I point to a future where doctors can work free from fear and worry. Where doctors are provided with congenial facilities and conditions that challenges them to put out their very best. Have a good day Africa!!!
MSA General Secretary,
Fourth year medical student
University for Development Studies,
Ghana, West Africa.
fb: Derrick Korletey Original