Govt dithers on health workers risk allowance

Helena Johannes

There has been no movement on the implementation of the risk allowance for healthcare workers at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, Chief Executive at the Medical Association of Namibia (MAN) Dr Armid Azadel has revealed.

This comes after health minister Kalumbi Shangula revealed this week that there is an increase in the number of health workers infected with Covid-19.

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have recorded a total number of 333 Health Workers infected with COVID-19. We noticed that the number of health workers infected is high in areas with high burden of confirmed cases such as in Khomas (227) and Erongo region (51)” Shangula said this week.

As of September 1, 2020 the number of health workers who succumbed to Covid-19 stands at one, a woman from the Swakopmund district.

Dr Azadel told the Windhoek Observer that MAN is trying to provide medical attention to frontline workers in terms of personal protective equipment such as free distribution of masks and clinical gloves at health facilities.

“Protecting health care workers is of paramount importance in Namibia and we are trying to protect the public from infection that might emanate from health workers. We still do not have a conclusive feedback regarding risk allowance from the government, but we will keep on engaging this.” he said.

The country has since been recording high numbers of Covid-19 cases for the past few months especially in the vicinity of Erongo and Khomas region.

According to Junias Shilunga from the Nurses Union of Namibia (NUN), health workers are working under pressure to fight the pandemic with not enough proper personal protective equipment (PPEs) to protect them especially in state hospitals, a claim previously denied by Shangula.

“Health workers are risking their lives while saving lives of Namibians, and it is really a concern that most of them are getting infected through the process” he said.

Shilunga said the union is trying to engage with the government every day through the Ministry of Health regarding the risk allowance for health professionals.

“The response provided by the government is that there are not enough funds,” he said.

Questions sent to the Office of the Prime Minister were not returned, with spokesperson, Rhingo Mutamba telling this newspaper the responses will be communicated through the Ministry of Health.

The United Kingdom is currently paying families of British healthcare workers working on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic N$1.3 million as part of a new life insurance scheme.

The UK scheme is to provide support for families of those who die from coronavirus during the course of essential and life-saving work. The program includes those providing direct care of patients as well as cleaners and porters.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has signed an order granting a special allowance to frontline public health workers during the period of the enhanced community quarantine in April this year.

Under Administrative Order 28, a one-time COVID-19 special risk allowance, equivalent to a maximum of 25 percent monthly basic pay, will be granted to public health workers who have great exposure to health risks in light of the pandemic.

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