Africa-Press – Zambia. Minister of Health Jonas Chanda has expressed concern that only 31 percent out of the 61,000 health workers across the country have been vaccinated against COVID-19 since the exercise was launched in the country.
Dr Chanda says health workers especially nurses are front line workers who are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and further transmitting to others.
Speaking at the virtual commemoration of the World Nurses Day dubbed ‘Nurses: A Voice to Lead, A Vision for Future Healthcare,’ Dr. Chanda said that a high number of nurses have contracted the diseases since it was declared a public health emergency last year.
He stated in a speech read for him by Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Dr. Kennedy Malama that though the COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary, more needs to be done to sensitize people on the benefits in the prevention of the disease and severe illness.
Dr Chanda observed that nurses continue to face the challenges and risks of COVID-19.
“We are not trying to coerce you to take the jab but you need to take note that you are at a higher risk of getting infected and spreading it to your families. You must get information and ask as many questions as possible to make informed decision with regard to the vaccine,” he said.
Dr Chanda observed that the role of nurses is critical to the successful implementation of vaccine programme and pledged government’s commitment to sensitize both health workers and the general public.
And Dr Chanda noted that government will remain committed to providing opportunities for advanced nursing education and professional roles including at policy level stating that they are key to the future of the nursing profession and improvements in health of the general population.
“In line with the theme, the world of health is dynamic; only those that decide to prepare for it will reap the benefits,” he said.
Dr. Chanda also noted that government is aware of the nurse shortages that compromises effective quality healthcare services which are a result of work overload among nurses.
“In addressing this challenge, government has so far recruited 24,480 health workers against a target of 30, 000,” he said.
Dr. Chanda also highlighted government’s commitment to enhancing the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) towards nurses and other health workers across the country.
Meanwhile, Dr. Chanda has cautioned members of the public against physically or mentally abusing nurses adding they should use appropriate procedures when aggrieved with the conduct of healthcare workers.
He also advised nurses to be professional in their conduct and avoid being confrontational with the public.
“I know that 99 percent for our nurses are professional, it is only a small percentage that has tarnished the profession,” he noted.
Earlier, Zambia Union of Nurses Organization (ZUNO) President Tisa Chiponda bemoaned poor working conditions among nurses who she said put their lives at risk of contracting diseases.
Mrs Chiponda observed that nurses are poorly paid and demanded that government should pay their outstanding personal related emoluments.
“Many of our nurses are being owed settling in allowances and leave benefits. We appeal to government to pay the outstanding monies to our members,” She said.
Mrs Chiponda called for public sensitization on the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to promote acceptance and uptake of the jab.