The Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience
Armed with gloves, face shields, masks, and other protective gear, hundreds of doctors like Dr. Gitonga Thiakunnu are now among the army of frontline healthcare givers in Kenya who are working day and night at hospitals and isolation units to battle COVID-19. When Dr. Thiakunnu arrives at work at the Kitui Level IV hospital he confirms the total number of patients waiting to see him as he stares at empty wards. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, far fewer patients frequent the hospital. They’re afraid of contracting the virus.
“I have never seen a disease cause so much fear among people to the extent of patients fearing to visit hospitals. During the month of April when Kitui Level IV hospital received its first COVID-19 suspected case, doctors, nurses, and patients ran away. The lack of knowledge on coronavirus is an obstacle to effective service delivery in this period of pandemic. Dealing with patients and doctors who are in a state of “pandemic denial” is quite challenging”, said Dr. Thiakunnu.
According to the latest report by Kenya’s Ministry of Health, more than 900 healthcare workers in Kenya have tested positive for novel coronavirus since the country reported its first case in March 2020. The rising number of infections among frontline health workers in Kenya has been linked to several risk factors, including direct contact with infected patients. As the number of COVID-19 cases among healthcare workers rises, some medical practitioners are reluctant to perform their duties out of fear of contracting the virus.
To ease the concerns of frontline healthcare workers, The Mastercard Foundation partnered with the Kenya Red Cross Society to support the Ministry of Health’s efforts to strengthen the healthcare system in high-risk counties. The partnership sought to train 2,585 and 2,100 community health volunteers on COVID-19 prevention and control measures, surveillance, contact tracing, patient management, and Psychological First Aid. It also provided healthcare workers with access to Psychosocial Support and equipped healthcare workers with knowledge on correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Having the right knowledge on donning and doffing has boosted my resilience to tackle COVID-19 and to sensitise patients and doctors on how to respond to the virus. I am now armed ready to defeat the invisible enemy”, added Dr. Thiakunnu.