Protecting the frontline health workers critical

Tuesday June 23 2020

Reports that frontline workers have become the latest victims of coronavirus infection is another sobering reality about the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a call to action to protect these workers because they live under real danger of contracting the virus everyday.

At the weekend, three police officers at Nairobi’s Kamukunji Police Station tested positive for the virus. Likewise, 30 nurses at Pumwani Maternity Hospital were placed under quarantine for fear they may have contracted the virus.

This brings the number of health workers infected to 83. In Mombasa, 11 court officials tested positive, compelling the Judiciary to close the courts.

These statistics are not conclusive, meaning that the numbers could be higher if mass testing was undertaken in those facilities.


All along, there have been fears that frontline workers such as doctors, nurses and police officers were at great risk of contracting the virus and, therefore, needed protection.


That fear is coming to pass. Experiences from Europe and America, where the pandemic had a huge toll on the population, show how health workers have been ravaged by Covid-19. They are in constant contact with patients, particularly those infected with the virus, leaving them badly exposed.

Police stations, prisons and military barracks are heavily guarded places, but that is no security against the coronavirus. Just last week, State House reported that some security staff there had tested positive for the virus, itself an indicator that no place is safe and nobody is immune from the disease.

On several occasions, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union has called for strategic interventions to support medical workers and protect them from infection.

In this context, the union has asked for adequate supply of personal protective equipment as psychosocial support to enable them to cope with their difficult situations.


 In addition, it has called for proper inspection of the equipment in the market to guard against supplying their members with fake products.

The emerging trends provide a reason for targeted interventions to shield the frontline staff from the pandemic. Fighting Covid-19 requires a strong medical system with healthy workers.

For a start, Health ministry needs to conduct mass testing among these workers to determine the level of infection, which will inform the appropriate remedial action. Secondly, provide adequate resources to support the teams... which is why we’re appalled when medical provisions for health workers are stolen.

More campaigns are needed to enhance and institutionalise the protocols to protect frontline workers from the coronavirus.