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Shortage of staff slows Bulawayo mass vaccination

by Staff reporter
20 Jul 2021 at 07:12hrs | Views
A SHORTAGE of health workers is dampening the mass vaccination drive in Bulawayo as centres are being overwhelmed resulting in some residents being turned away.

Under the mass vaccination exercise which was launched two weeks ago, about 30 000 people from the city have been inoculated against Covid19. Bulawayo recorded 1 026 new cases and 77 deaths during the past week.

As of Sunday, 109 483 people had received their first dose of the Covid19 vaccine while 62 323 had received their second.

For the metropolitan province to achieve herd immunity, at least 400 000 people should be vaccinated. Bulawayo director of health services Dr Edwin Sibanda said despite availability of vaccines to eligible members of the public, staff shortages were crippling progress towards a smooth roll out. He said council needs a complement of 150 nurses to be able to offer needed health care services excluding Covid19 vaccination.

In March, Dr Sibanda said the local authority was running with 120 nurses but resignations have seen the figure dropping to 87 after 33 nurses left between June last year and this month.

"Uptake is very high that is why we have had to turn away some people from our centres. We are still far from achieving herd immunity because even if we have inoculated 120 000 we need about 400 000 to 500 000 to be vaccinated," said Dr Sibanda.

"People should appreciate that Covid19 vaccination is not the only reason why we have clinics in Bulawayo; there are many services that have to continue even as we continue fighting Covid19. "We have pregnant women that need their services and to be assisted to deliver safely," he said.

He said despite pressure to fight Covid19, members of the public on antiretrovirals must access their medication without fail.

"We also have people with TB who are infectious. We cannot keep them in clinics for a long time as they may spread the disease to other clients. We have the ongoing immunisation programme to help children fight killer diseases at the same time," he said. "We did not get extra staff for this particular project save from the Ekusileni nurses who have been recalled as they are vaccinating as well.

This means we have a few nurses to do everything and still vaccinate masses who are coming in numbers. We have serious staff challenges and as if that is not enough some of our staff became cases themselves as they got infected with Covid19."

He said one of the nurses from Pumula clinic recently succumbed to the deadly disease.

"Others become contacts who must go home to isolate for days which leaves some clinics with less staff than they originally had," he said. "We have had quite a number of nurses who have been infected in our clinics, one nurse even succumbed in Pumula so obviously it means their colleagues will have to go home and quarantine."

Dr Sibanda said the mobile vaccination centres have also crippled operations in clinics as council nurses are also expected to man those.

"If we have to be normal according to the establishment, we need about 150 nurses or more for us to be closer to what we can call normal and this is before a crisis like Covid19. "Some nurses from our clinics have had to go and administer the vaccine in places like MASCA, Stanley Square and other points which are being run by our clinics and it is heavily affecting our service delivery," he said.

Dr Sibanda reminded residents that Covid19 methods of transmission and prevention remain the same despite differences in variants. "We will continue reminding residents to mask up, sanitise and practice social distancing to avoid transmission," he said.

Chronicle yesterday visited some vaccination centres across the city to observe how the vaccination programme was progressing. Residents told the news crew that they had turned up to vaccination centres as early as 5AM but by 12PM some of them had not been vaccinated. The residents raised concerns about the slow pace at some health centres.

Mr Mthokozisi Ndlovu from Nketa 6 suburb said delays in getting people vaccinated was dampening their mood and could result in some people no longer coming to get jabbed.

"We came here at 5AM and we have seen only a few people being taken in. The queue is not moving, we don't know what is happening. No one is explaining to us why there is a delay. I live in Nketa 6 so you can imagine coming here during those early hours and waiting so long without service," said Mr Ndlovu. An elderly man, Mr Leonard Rukuni said it was worrying that senior citizens were not being prioritised at health centres.

"In banks and other facilities, there are separate queues for the elderly but here we just have to join the same queue.

"Some of the elderly people who are here came at 5AM, they haven't eaten anything and they have underlying diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and so forth. "They will even end up catching colds while in the queue. These days it's too cold. My plea is that we be considered first when we come for vaccination. We no longer have the same energy as these young people," said Mr Rukuni.

At centres such as Pelandaba and Emakhandeni clinics residents expressed satisfaction with the vaccination programme.

Mr Andrew Nkomo from Mabutweni suburb who had turned up at Pelandaba Clinic to be vaccinated said rising Covid19 infections had forced him to seek inoculation. "At first, I didn't care about getting vaccinated but since I started hearing that cases were on the increase, I decided to get vaccinated. This is the best way to protect myself from contracting the virus.

"When I was growing up, we heard about freza (influenza) that killed a lot of people so if we don't get vaccinated, we might die as well," said Mr Nkomo.

Ms Zondiwe Dube from the same suburb said she was skeptical when the vaccination programme was initially rolled out but she is now confident as she has not heard of anyone dying after being vaccinated. "Also, a lot of people that we know are dying from Covid19 so getting vaccinated is the best way of protecting ourselves," said Ms Dube.

Source - chronicle