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Doctors Take Govt to Court Over Personal Protective Equipment

Zimbabwe doctors have asked government to provide them and other frontline medical practitioners with personal protective equipment (PPE) and to adequately equip public hospitals to protect them from the deadly coronavirus as they execute their duties and help slow the spread of the epidemic.

In an application filed on Sunday 5 April 2020, the doctors represented by Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) protested that they are at risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) because government had not put in place measures to ensure that health practitioners across the country, who include nurses, nurse aides and pharmacists among others are adequately protected against the deadly epidemic.

Zimbabwe has recorded 10 positive cases of coronavirus with one person, a prominent broadcaster, having died after contracting the disease.

Government, ZADHR argued, had not put in place adequate measures to ensure the screening and testing of personnel driving public transport provided by the state-run Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) and other public service buses transporting authorised persons to and from work and to screen and test public servants and security services who continue to work during the 21-day national lockdown.

This, ZADHR said, creates potential exposure and creates a reasonable apprehension among doctors, who use the only available form of public transport that they will contract COVID-19 on their way to and from work as a result of the absence of screening and testing of personnel authorised to drive the public transport vehicles.

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Government, ZADHR charged, has not put in place measures to ensure a robust screening and testing of people for coronavirus symptoms across the country, which puts its members at risk of contracting the disease as they also reside with members of the public.

The doctors’ representative body complained against the lack of adequate measures to ensure the screening, testing and quarantining of persons entering Zimbabwe from the various ports of entry or the tracing of some Zimbabweans who reportedly arrived from South Africa into Zimbabwe on the eve of the South African lockdown, thus seriously exposing Zimbabweans to the risk of contracting coronavirus.

ZADHR, which is represented by Andrew Makoni of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said more than 1 500 doctors were working in Zimbabwean hospitals across the country without adequate PPE including some specialists, nurses, nurse aides, technicians, pharmacists and other health practitioners.

ZADHR has listed Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo, Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube and Transport and Economic Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza as respondents.

The doctors representative body, which said its members and other medical practitioners bore the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic and are vulnerable to contracting it, bemoaned the dire shortage of appropriate and equipment such as ventilators, oxygen tanks, Hazmat suits, N95 masks and properly manned quarantine and isolation facilities in the country, which ideally must be available in every district hospital.

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ZADHR disclosed that those facilities were only available in Harare and Bulawayo leaving citizens outside these two centres at the risk of failing to timeously access healthcare.

ZADHR said the 1 500 doctors operating in Zimbabwe will require an average of at least three N95 masks per day, which translates to 4 500 masks per day for them.

The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.

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