Ghana health workers warn of potential COVID-19 calamity

ACCRA (Reuters) - The coronavirus epidemic risks overwhelming Ghana’s health sector if the government does not take urgent action such as guaranteeing health workers have sufficient protective gear, national medical groups said on Thursday.

As of the end of June, 779 health workers had contracted COVID-19 and many more were unable to work as they waited for test results in isolation, jeopardising care for the growing number of patients requiring hospital care, four associations said in a joint statement.

“The current state of affairs has the potential to over-stretch the already fragile health system,” they said.

The warning was issued by the national doctors, nurses and pharmacists associations and the health service workers union after an emergency meeting on July 1.

“We entreat the government to take swift and practicable measures to avert the imminent calamitous ramifications,” they said.

With the most comprehensive testing campaign in West Africa, Ghana has so far registered more than 23,400 cases of COVID-19 and 129 deaths.

But the groups said efforts to contain the virus are being undermined by a shortage of protective gear for health workers, difficulties enforcing infection prevention protocols in health facilities, and the slow processing of test results, among other issues.

Despite rising numbers of coronavirus cases, Ghana was one of the first countries in West Africa to trial easing lockdown measures in April in an effort to protect the economy.

Reporting by Christian Akorlie; Writing by Alessandra Prentice, Editing by Angus MacSwan