Double-edged sword for Zimbabwean health workers in UK

THOUSANDS of Zimbabwean health workers might have left the country to seek greener pastures in the United Kingdom but with the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) ravaging that country many are now dying far from home and being buried by strangers.

While four people have succumbed to the deadly virus in Zimbabwe, in the UK, 29 Zimbabweans, mostly nurses and doctors have died as they work on the frontline exposed to the global pandemic that has killed more than 200 000 and has been confirmed in more than 2 million people.

In the UK alone over 26 000 people have died from the contagion while thousands more have been infected notwithstanding the better salaries for frontline workers and of course better equipped hospitals.

As such, health experts raised concerns over the increased deaths of Zimbabwe health workers alleging that most, desperate to make ends meet and also sustain their families back home, are forced to work at the forefront and thus exposed to the highly contagious pathogen.

“To date, the embassy has not received updated information from the host government on the deaths of Zimbabweans due to Covid-19, understandably because the British government has explained that it is currently seized with implementing measures to contain the pandemic.

They have promised to provide detailed information as soon as it is possible,” Zimbabwe ambassador to UK Christian Katsande said in a statement recently.

“(The embassy) has been able to gather information from the Diaspora community and religious leaders, cluster leaders, affected individuals, and the media, on Zimbabweans who have passed on due to Covid-19.”

According to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) many of the health workers who died are foreigners.

“Many of them came to the UK from other countries to work for the NHS. Most were working on the frontline and caring for patients, while some were retired but continued to work,” BBC said adding that more than 100 National Health Service (NHS) workers died from the pandemic.

Health experts complain that most of the  nurses, Zimbabweans included, are working for long hours leaving them exposed to the deadly coronavirus disease.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo told the Daily News on Sunday that they are not happy with what is happening to their colleagues in UK.

“It’s a sad and unfortunate situation that our colleagues in UK are dying. They have gone to greener pastures not because of willingness but circumstances forced them, economic challenges forced them. They are now facing the hardest time of their lives because they want to feed their families.

“We are much worried about the situation. Our question is why they are dying like that; we think that they are being exposed more than their counterparts. Due to their background most of them have got two jobs going, working for two different hospitals. This means that most of them spend at least 12 hours working. This will expose them because someone will be tired and he or she can not follow measures of preventing himself from Covid-19 infection.

“We are saying if possible our government must engage UK so that those who want to come back can be assisted and they must help our health workers in UK because the situation is bad. The UK government must provide them with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and avoid throwing them to the deep end.”

The Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) secretary-general Norman Matara said

“From what I have gathered most of our health workers are working long hours because they are working on locum basis, our health workers will be left exposed because of this. The situation is tricky because most of them will be looking for money to feed their families back home.

“We just hope and pray that the situation improves. However, all health workers must be protected and there is need to treat them equally despite that some are foreigners.”

The UK embassy in Zimbabwe dismissed the allegations saying they can’t comment on accusations made by individuals.

“We have been immensely saddened to read reports in the media of a number of health-workers originally from Zimbabwe who have died in the UK of Covid-19. We express our deepest condolences to their friends and family, both in the UK and in Zimbabwe. NHS workers are doing a brilliant and vital job at the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic and all who live in the UK are grateful to and proud of them.

“The British embassy in Harare is unable to comment on individual cases,” the embassy said.

Zimbabwe sources working for NHS said foreigners are not being given preferential treatment when they fell sick.

“They are not treating foreign health workers with care as compared to their citizens. Foreign health workers are being thrown to the deep end,” the source said

Another source said he witnessed a patient who was in need of a ventilator dying while there were some UK citizens who were looking much better, but they declined to help the dying African.

Source – dailynews