Who Is A Frontline Health Worker?
When Ghana Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) had their presser on 30th March 2020, the question of "who a frontline health worker is" was the most asked. The president of the association said and I quote, if you're a nurse or a midwife, you're a frontline health worker, unquote.
I was outraged by her answer. I believed she was either dodgy on who a frontline health worker was (per the government definition), or was genuinely ignorant of it. After the presser, I spoke to both the president and the general secretary of the association, and both assured me that frontline health workers as captured on the MoH's letter on insurance package referred to all nurses and midwives. I was kind of convinced even though same letter suggestively referred to frontline health workers as persons who "have been deployed to respond to COVID-19".
When the president gave his 5th address on Covid-19, he stated that health workers were to enjoy 3 months of tax-free salaries. However, frontline health workers would enjoy an additional benefit of 50% more of their basic salary. Clearly, this caveat means not all health workers are frontline workers. So, the big question is, "Who is a frontline health worker?"
Since day one of the logomachy about "frontline", I have always understood it as "persons who directly respond to Covid-19 cases --- contact tracers, isolation centre's nurses and doctors, field epidemiologists among others". As a matter of fact, the Information Minister, KON threw more light on the frontline health worker brouhaha post the president's last speech. Indeed, his adumbrations clearly torpedoed the GRNMA's president's assertion that frontline health workers refer to all cadres of nurses and midwives irrespective of where they are stationed.
For now, there is no operational definition of frontline health workers with respect to the COVID-19 crises. However, communication from government and her underlings kept giving nurses and midwives different and mixed ideas of who truly is a frontliner.
The Information Minister and the Health Minister have both clearly expressed very opposite views on frontline health workers. The latter even said frontline health workers include janitors, cleaners, orderlies, etc.
Well, most nurses and midwives across the country in various health facilities worry if they were not regarded as frontliners. Because, before Covid-19 clients get to the so-called frontliners, they might have gone through the hands of the nurse in a tiny deprived village of Kumbungu where basic amenities are a luxury.
Hence, would feel left out. Nurses who are not at isolation centres or designated for Covid-19 may even stand greater risk as they may not be well PPEed for the virus.
In the light of the misgivings about the frontline health workers, many health professionals especially nurses may be dispirited. It is therefore very important for the government to come out with operational Covid-19 definition of a FRONTLINE HEALTH WORKER to put all these cacophonous grunts to a stop. Only the official word of the government can be considered seriously as she would be obligated to live up to her words.
Until then, I will entreat all nurses and midwives to manage their expectations on any promised Covid-19 emoluments and benefits because there is so much to stress over in these difficult times. Health professionals, in general, should not get overly enthusiastic or thrown into oblivion by Covid-19 benefits but rather focus on the rudimentary measures on IPC. Let's take our personal safety very seriously with or without frontline allowance. The gift of good health is worth more than anything monetarily imaginable.
Tamale West Hospital
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