More than 16 health workers have succumbed to Covid-19, while more than 838 others have been infected in the line of duty.

These numbers have doubled from 429 cases as at July 15 in what could be the country’s top infection area — hospitals.

The development threatens to push patients further away from the healthcare system.

The ravaging effects

The latest Ministry of Health Situation report released on Sunday revealed that these healthcare workers’ deaths and infections are spread across 34 counties.

This shows the ravaging effects of the virus on frontline health care workers, and the potential exposure this has to patients seeking services in hospitals.

According to the ministry, the high rate of infection among health workers in private facilities pointed to inadequate adherence to the infection prevention and control (IPC) guidelines.

The report also showed that as at Saturday, 34 patients were in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in various hospitals across the country.

Infection prevention

In April, Health acting Director-General Patrick Amoth unveiled the IPC guidelines, which, he said, would seek to enhance “infection prevention and control measures at all levels of healthcare systems.”

According to the guidelines, health workers while obtaining swabs for suspected cases and undertaking aerosol generating procedures, should don full personal protective equipment comprising PPE suit, N95 mask, goggles, and hair caps. “In the setting of Covid-19 outbreak, these invasive procedures should be kept to a minimum to avoid generating large quantities of infectious aerosols,” it reads in part.

Over the last three months, however, healthcare workers have protested at insufficient PPEs or poor quality equipment that they say expose them to the virus.

Health workers in counties such as Lamu, Kisumu, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, and Bungoma have gone on strike. Last week, health workers in Lamu’s King Fahad Level 4 Hospital downed their tools for the third time, seeking to be provided with proper PPEs. More than six health workers at the facility have tested positive for Covid-19.

“Despite our efforts to push for a safe working environment, nothing has been done, and the numbers of staff being infected are rising” said Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) Lamu Chairperson Asya Said.

In Kisumu, Knun branch chairman Maurice Opetu said the PPEs delivered to the county were substandard, putting health workers at high risk of infection.