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News: Loss and despair in the backdrop of World Health Week

From Top left to right, Pharmacist Almaz Mitiku, Anesthetist Gebreselassie Abadi, Oncologist Aynalem Abreha, Nurse Anbessaawedem Yohannes and Deputy Director of EFDA Dr.Kharedin Redi. Picture: Ministry of Health

Etenesh Abera @EteneshAb

Addis Abeba April,12, 2021 – World health workers week was commemorated for the eighth time from April 5-9 . The World Health Organization titled this year commemoration ‘Year of Health and Care Workers 2021’ under the theme ‘Protect, Invest, Together’.  According to data obtained from the Ethiopian Ministry of Health,  Ethiopia has the lowest rate human resources when it comes to the health sector. Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus known as ‘Covid-19’ in Ethiopia health care professionals have been on the frontlines combating and helping manage the outbreak . According to official data by the ministry of health (MoH), a year after the first Covid-19 case was registered in Ethiopia, the total number of active cases stands at 55,187 while the number of recovered cases stand at 170,633 and the number of deaths stand at 3,174, a data collected from 2,445,578 tests. 

A consterum of eleven health care professionals’ associations in a statement expressed their concerns about the alarming increase in the number of registered Covid-19 cases in Ethiopia, a situation that according is beyond the current capacity of the country’s health system. Highlighting that in January 2021 the reported number for active cases stood at 11,744 but seven weeks later active cases increased to 55,358. Dr.Yared Agidew, CEO of Yeka Kotebe Hospital (The first Covid -19 treatment center in the country) explained to Addis Standard how public complacency is putting health workers at risk .

Dr.Yared explained that the impact of Covid-19 is multi-layered. He said, “The first layer involves  the physiological impact at the beginning of the pandemic. At that time we were hearing news of death all over the globe and it was a source of huge frustration for our physicians. The lack of research and unpredictable behavior created fear and confusion. I remember health workers delegating their families and lawyers to exact their wills in preparation for worst case scenario that being death.’’ He added, “Health workers are human after all and they struggle mentally as they witness the suffering of their patients.”. 

He continued, “The second layer involves the physical well being of health workers. As the virus continued spreading the pressure to add more work hours affected our health workers. Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for such a long time was another physical challenge especially with nursing mothers.  Eating, uraning and sometimes breathing will be difficult after wearing the PPE for a long time as health care professionals have to work overtime and double shifts for lack of adequate human resources.”  Dr. Yared explained that feeling burnt out as a result of the increasing number of  cases increasing day by day at a very alarming rate. 

“Everybody should know the burden of Covid-19 on society as a whole. “

Dr.Yared Agidew, CEO of Yeka Kotebe Hospital

When asked if the hospital suffered any loss in its staff, Dr Yared answered, “None but we had a lot of health workers who survived the Covid-19.” He continued speaking on the efforts done to bring about change in public perceptions about the virus, ’We (Health sector) are spreading awareness in all available resources. Health workers carry campaigns to inform their respective communities by highlighting that health workers pay dearly for societal negligence.’’ The doctor further expanded on what is expected from the public to prevent the collapse of an already suffering health system, “For your surprise awareness about the virus is more than sufficient. In the beginning and midway through knowledge wasn’t distributed in the proper manner it required. Now in different ways health care professionals and others have been engaged in awareness campaigns on prevention measures. I believe all parts of society know about the virus, means of transmissions and prevention.  As I said, what we need is an attitude change in the society. Everybody should know the burden of Covid-19 on society as a whole. Things around Intensive care units (ICU) are getting worse and out of control. We as a country lack enough resources to combat so we should take the wellbeing of health workers into consideration,” he concludes, “Everyone should follow the instructions of health care professional and take care of themselves and families,”  

It is important to note that while we are commemorating World Health Workers Week, the country lost some of its prominent health care professionals due Covid-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic. Dr. Aynalem Abreha, a prominent Oncologist who was working at Tikur Anbessa specialized hospital Oncology department, Dr.Kharedin Redi, the deputy director general for Ethiopian Food and Drug Authority, Gebreselassie Abadi, a senior Anesthetist who served for more than 25 years at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, Almaz Mitiku, a pharmacist who served as senior pharmacist at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College and Anbessaawedem Yohannes, a nurse who served as head nurse at St Peter’s Specialized Hospital. AS

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