Mozambique’s Ministry of Health (MISAU) does not have enough Covid-19 protection equipment for its professionals, which contributed for the contamination of over 1.500 health professionals, even after receiving over 100 million US dollars for prevention and treatment of the pandemic.

Out of the total of infected professionals, 375 work at the Maputo Central Hospital (HCM), the country’s largest health unit.

This happens at a time after the Mozambican executive received 109 million US dollars from its national and international partners, an amount over what it initially asked for – 100 million US dollars.

According to the “Status of Commitments with Partners under Covid-19: October” document, the 109,569,978 US dollars earmarked for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 were all channeled to MISAU.

HCM Health professionals speaking to Observatório do Cidadão para Saúde (OCS), complained about the lack of work equipment, which renders their activity risky.

In the hospital’s maternity ward, technicians have been working with only two masks per week and without protection aprons. “Yesterday (Tuesday), we had two patients infected by the disease, and, naturally, we are also exposed since we do not have adequate protection equipment,” said a female nurse, seeking anonymity.

In another ward of the same hospital, health professionals get a total of 12 pairs of daily gloves. They are forced to work all day with the gloves, placing their lives and of a thousand other people at risk. “We’re not fine here. (Occasionally) we are sent to do check-ups, but when we get there, we’re told there are no tests,” she added.

The ideal number of pairs of gloves should be at least 50 for the team on the roster per day. It is suspected that this has contributed for the contagion of the health professionals, as well as their relatives, since the HCM does not carry out contact tracing of some of the health professionals’ relatives.

Recently, Joana Alberto*, a nurse at HCM, started feeling tired. Her joints were hurting, as was her whole body and she obviously wanted to rest.

“But it was during work hours and I couldn’t rest. The days are long and there are lots of patients to care for. How could I think about resting?” she asked. Then Alberto did not know what was happening. She thought that the pain was related with the long hours of work and at no time did she related it to Covid-19.

Like her, other colleagues had similar symptoms. They were commenting about the fatigue and the pain they felt. However, in that context those who seemed stronger helped others. “What we really want is for this moment to pass quickly or for people to be more cautious. We are suffering here and not even the subsidies are important. Our lives are at stake. We work 24 hours a day and we have one or two days off, but they are not enough. It’s hard because it’s 24 hours of non-stop work.” Government and the health professionals negotiated a subsidy for the risk faced by the workers at the forefront of Covid-19.

Nights came with breathing difficulties. Never before had she felt such symptoms. “Later we were submitted to Covid-19 testing. They called me when I was home resting to inform me that I had tested positive.”

After the call, she followed all prevention measures to protect her family. “I didn’t want to see them with the same symptoms. The symptoms are painful and I can’t imagine someone else with them. At a certain point the concern is with those closest to us. But it was clear that the authorities are not concerned with us. They didn’t even bother testing my family.”

Francisco general nurse, is not in the frontline of the fight against Covid-19, but he twice tested positive in his ward. Amid searing headaches and fatigue, he fears for the lives of thousands of Mozambicans who do not take the disease seriously and he calls for following of prevention measures.

“Nobody is taking the disease seriously and the only thing that I know is that if things continue this way, things will end up badly for everyone,” he lamented.

Although he does not know where exactly he got infected, he is sure that it was at the HCM. “At work, sometimes I’m all alone and I only did not wear a mask for a day. I believe it was on that day. A colleague’s test had come back positive and he had already left. Perhaps it was then,” he said.

He added that one of the major problems that he faced and that he has been facing has to do with stigma. “I’m a nurse and I’m very sensible. When I found out I had been infected, I asked people not to get close to me since I was infected. But people started spreading this information in my neighbourhood and I felt very bad,” he lamented.

According to the professionals, MISAU has abandoned the professionals who are not in the frontline, by not providing them with protection equipment. But it is this group that renders diagnosis of cases and identify patients with Covid-19 patients, instructing them to test for Covid-19.

“We’re the ones who triage the patients. We send them for testing but we don’t have protection equipment. We’re exposed,” said a nurse who sought anonymity, fearing reprisals and persecution.

One thing that is a travesty is that at the HCM hand-washing as well as the taking of temperature are not obligatory. The guards do not take the temperature of patients and do not force them to wash hands. That fact can transform the health unit in a centre for Covid-19 contagion.

The distance between the places where temperatures are taken and where the taps are placed is quite considerably, which might be the reason why patients do not wash hands and become relaxed. In truth, the blame has to be shared by both professional workers and patients.

*Joana Alberto is a fictitious name. The source is female and sought anonymity.

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