THE Health and Child Care Minister last month announced that they will be engaging the services of Uniformed Forces to collect as much Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) samples of up to 1000 a day.
An average of 350 samples are diagnosed for the disease daily with March 29 Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 Situation Report announcing eight testing positive.
Common duties of environmental health technicians include collecting samples of water, soil, waste and animal matter; transporting and documenting samples; verifying code and regulatory compliance; investigating complaints; preparing and maintaining records; and other duties as needed.
This means Security Services shall be working alongside Environmental Health Services Technicians and Officers currently doing this job.
“Regarding achieving the 1000 tests a day, we have now come up with a strategy, the taskforce has implored that we get the services or the support services from the security services, they have medical corps in the army, the Police and Prisons. We have roped them in so they can be able to assist in the sampling process to assist our healthcare workers and be able to come up with a sizeable number of tests or samples per day,” said Health Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo speaking to journalists.
The Health Minister spoke of the adjusted the World Health Organisation (WHO) Case Definition and Clinical Definition of this virus.
“This is going to happen countrywide. We have also said we are going over and above the Clinical Definition by the World Health Organisation,” he said.
With this tweaked Clinical Case Definition, purposive sampling for collection of tests will be employed. Purpose sampling is when someone specifically targets a certain population to gather information or in this case sample specimens for diagnosis or analysis. There is nothing new here in this COVID-19 response as they employed this sampling technique through tracking visitors importing the virus and their contacts. Now that the virus is in country, there is need to look carefully and closely into those with chronic conditions as Asthma, Diabetes, Hypertension, Rheumatoid, Mental Disorders, Pneumonia so they can be tested and treated.
“So now we are going to be looking at all those other cases admitted in our hospitals with chronic conditions like diabetics, hypertensives and all those with pneumonia. So basically we want to test most of the patients if not all who are admitted in our health institutions to start off with,” he said.
Dr Moyo also said Healthworkers such as nurses, doctors, the lab scientists, pharmacists, radiographers, physiotherapists, the Civil Service and Security Forces shall be tested as well for the disease.
“We are also looking at the security forces, the civil service, all those that make up the statistics. We want to be able to come up with a sizeable number. In terms of numbers, we are pushing to be able to get more candidates being sampled more appropriately to get more numbers,” the Health Minister said.
Coincidence or not, the engagement of the Security Forces in this manner comes as no surprise but confirming a communique which circulated on some social media circles.
The communique had a ghost writer with the language of someone from the security forces. The security forces in this letter, demanded risk allowances agreed upon in the Health Service Bipartite Negotiating Panel. The HSBNP involving health workers and Health Service Board as Government agreed on a risk allowance of ZW$1500 for health workers at high risk like EHTs, Nurses, Doctors, Laboratory Scientists.
“Zimbabwean Government has awarded Nurses some hefty,classical,unprecedented and l lucrative allowances sending them into a heaven- like dreamland whilst condemning Soldiers,Police Officers,Prison Officers,Teachers to poverty and hell like situation. Zimbabwean Nurses have been given Covid-19 risk allowances of $1500 back dated to 01 March 2020 and all their other allowances have been increased by 100% and back dated to 01 January 2020 meaning to say a Zimbabwean Nurse will get a salary of ranging between $13500 to $15000 whilst Soldiers,Police Officers,Prison Officers and Teachers getting $3000.This is a mere joke and gross condemnation of the other essential service and can cause mutiny in the security sector,” read the letter which was hard to confirm at the time of receipt.
This letter must have reached the eyes and ears of the Country’s Leadership heading the COVID-19 National Response Taskforce which saw giving the Security Forces that risk allowance for patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints to enforce the lockdown safety measure shortchanging the aims targeted. To get the Risk Allowance they lobby for, they have to be in the actual frontline work of gathering of samples or better yet tend to patients with the disease as nurses and doctors. According to the COVID-19 Response or any fight against a pandemic, those at High Risk have First hand contact with patient or suspected case. These professions include Nursing, Doctors, Radiography, Laboratory Science Environmental Health, Oral Health, Nurse Aides, Ambulance Drivers, General Hands, Mortuary Attendants.
“Police Officers are on very high risk of this Covid-19 as they are discharging their constitutional mandate without any protection. The same goes to the Soldiers. What is so special about being a nurse in Zimbabwe??? Any person with 5 Ordinary level subjects including English,Maths and Science can be a Nurse which means every Police Officer or Teacher in Zimbabwe can be a Nurse.This barbaric favouritism and dividing of civil service is totally uncalled for. Whose profession is not special???. Why not recruit Nurses through Police,Army,Prisons and train them and later send them to public hospitals,” read the communique whose calls were answered by making those represented by the author assume the roles of EHTs, appropriately and accurately the first healthcare interface with patients in this response.
Further complaining in this anger-filled letter the writer said, “Train a lot of 18 month Primary Care Nurses and flood the Hospitals with them. Stop giving Diplomas to Registered General Nursing programme but rather give them practising certificates only. No one is forced to be a Nurse at all and if one does not want to serve Zimbabwean people just fire him/her. Why does the Government be tormented by the people it trained???.
“Change the Nursing Recruiting and Training Policy as a matter of urgent. There is need of loyal nurses just like Soldiers,Police Officers and Teachers and no profession is superior to the other.”
Inasmuch as the parting shot is convincing in trying to universalise the importance of the overal civil service as essential services, the author needed to know that situations differ with this one being an overwhelming dreaded public health war threating lives, social and economic development. This needs the expertise of passionate healthworkers in managing patients with the disease.
While the Security Forces are expected to be in the field wearing COVID-19 Combat Gear dubbed Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing, the when remains a mystery.
They better get on the ground as soon as yesterday to be paid what they prayed for.