Buchanan – Over 20 health workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in Grand Bassa County since the global pandemic spread to Liberia, leaving many health workers complaining that the lack of personal protective equipment or PPEs is exposing them to a greater risk of contracting the new coronavirus disease.
Emmanuel Mitchell, a health worker at the Liberian Government Hospital in Buchanan city, told LocalVoicesLiberia that health authorities in the county have often ignored their plight.
“We have complained over and over, but the leaders of the various hospitals can’t listen to us and today we the health workers are the ones being badly hit by COVID-19 in Grand Bassa County,” Mitchell said.
“For me I am even afraid to go to work this time because to get gloves sometimes can be tough for us.”
It is not health workers in the port city of Buchanan that are enduring the risk of treating patients without PPEs. Health workers in rural communities in the county say they are at more risk.
Mamie Toe, a community health worker, said many health workers in rural Grand Bassa County are “feeling very discouraged to perform their duties” in the absence of equipment and medical supplies at health facilities.
“We as health workers took an oath to help save lives but our lives saving oath is gradually turning against us because of the scarcity of PPEs to function appropriately,” Toe said, adding that, in addition to being afraid of contracting the virus, she is also worried about possibly spreading it among her children if she does get infected.
“Since the COVID-19 commotion began in Grand Bassa County, I have been frightened because my children at home normally run to me while on my way from work. I see them being at risk as well”.
Health workers are working under “fear and trauma” because they are not ensured that their lives are protected, she added.
And Leerod Gorwor, the president of Grand Bassa County Health Workers Union, echoed the “fear and concerns” of health workers in the county when he spoke to LocalVoicesLiberia, stressing that the lack of adequate PPEs remains a major problem.
“Health Workers are at higher risk in these critical times of COVID-19, because I normally see my colleagues washing hand gloves for reuse,” said Gorwor. “Right now, health workers are the ones suffering from COVID-19 because they want to save lives “.
Continued Gorwor: “I was quarantined for 14 days along with few of my colleagues after we came in contact with someone who was tested positive for COVID-19. We were kept indoor for 14 days without getting a cent for food from the government during the 14 days, which was wrong.”
Following numerous complaints by health workers who were quarantined, Gowor said the county health team was pushed to give them some financial assistance after they were released from quarantine.
Now, he is concerned that more health workers remain exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19 because these challenges are still unsolved.
“Right now, we have 17 health workers at the Liberia Agriculture Company Hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19,” he said. “I am worried as well because health workers shouldn’t be suffering because they want to save lives.”
At the same time, Dr. Abraham Jawara, Medical Director of the Liberian Government Hospital in Buchanan, says health risks faced by health workers also extends to medical doctors and authorities of the health sector.
“Myself was quarantined after I came in contact with a health worker who treated a COVID-19 patient,” said Dr. Jawara, who was among several health workers who were placed under quarantine in June.
“Health workers are at serious risk in this COVID-19 pandemic but all I can say to them is to be careful with themselves”.
He admitted that there was an acute shortage of gloves – but following engagement with the Ministry of Health, he says that the regular supply of PPEs has improved.