Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) at Environmental Health Officers Alliance Ghana (EHOA-GH) has called on the government to include them in the COVID-19 response team as a matter of urgency.
Speaking at a press conference in Accra, yesterday, Mr. Yaw Akwaa Lartey, national president of EHOA-GH said, the presidential advisory committee on covid19 it's not completed without Registered Unlicensed Environmental Health Officer.
According to Mr. Lartey, they are first of contact in environmental health relating issues but have been neglected in this fight against COVID-19.
"In recent times, when there are reports of unknown deaths, Environmental Health Officers are called to take the lead role to ensure the sanitary removal of such dead bodies for subsequent action. A few weeks ago, our members in some MMDAs were forced to carry and disinfect a suspected decomposing female dead body found in uncompleted buildings and other public places without the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) contrary to Section 118 of the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651)", he said.
Adding that, "Environmental Health Officers across the country have been unduly exposed to risk in the performance of our duties every day relative to COVID-19 pandemic before, during and after the lockdown and still working as we were exempted to work ( Sanitary Services) without any Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other resources in our various jurisdiction in the communities".
The association also proposed, the government should re-establish the Environmental Health Authority under the ministry of health to empower them to work effectively.
"In 1994, ex-president Rawlings’ regime, all personnel were transferred from the Ministry of Health to Local Government without budget or accompanying equipment or laborers. Provision of logistics hindered our work great because the assemblies don’t provide us these tools!".
The association also pointed out the following measures implemented will go a long way to place the country to gain an upper hand in the fight against this pandemic.
a) In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, all household waste is classified as suspected infectious waste. Consequently all landfill sites, final disposal sites, refuse dumps, refuse trucks, “Borla” tricycles and taxis, communal containers, and household bins must be classified as infected areas under Section 3 of the Public Health Act, 2012 ( Act 851).
b) Thus all operators or workers of waste management services in both private and public sectors must wear personal protective equipment (PPEs) while performing their duties. The MMDAs must, therefore, support the Environmental Health and Sanitation Units to effectively enforce these requirements as stipulated in Section 54 of the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851).
c) All communal refuse containers and household bins which are lifted by vehicles from the communities must be covered with water-resistant blankets (Tapoli) before they are transported to the final disposal or landfill sites. Also, these vehicles must be disinfected after disposing of their waste if they passed through these suspected infectious wastes. In other words the buckets of tricycles, communal containers, and the trucks must be disinfected before returning from the site back to town.
d) Public Health in Ghana will be greatly enhanced if steps are taken to increase the collaboration among key stakeholders as outlined in Section 173 of the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851).
They suggested that the government should consider disinfecting all lorry stations or terminals more often especially the firmly fixed concrete seats and also to develop Guidelines for the disposal of the nose and face masks, used tissue papers, hand gloves, etc in various homes and this must be facilitated by Registered Environmental Health Officers also known as Public Health Enforcement Agents.
EHOA-GH is a Registered Professional Association for Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) working under the Local Government Service (LGS) and are regulated by the Allied Health Professions Council in accordance with the Health Professions Regulatory Bodies Act, 2013 (Act 857).