Despite being among those at highest risk of contracting the new coronavirus, information about infections among healthcare workers in South Africa has been scarce. But Health Minister Zweli Mkhize recently released new numbers detailing how the outbreak has impacted health workers across the country.
Publication title: Statement on health care workers that have acquired COVID-19
Author(s): The department of health
Publication date: 13 August 2020
How many healthcare workers are infected?
- Healthcare workers are among those at highest risk for contracting any virus that leads to an infectious disease, according to the National Institute of Occupational Health.
- Health Minister Zweli Mkhize recently announced that 27 360 healthcare workers in South Africa had been infected with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, as of 4 August.
- The majority of these, 78%, were from the public sector, and the remaining 6 027 health workers were from the private sector.
- There have been 240 deaths and 16 005 recoveries reported as of 4 August.
- These numbers were provided by provincial health departments and the Hospital Association of South Africa (Hasa).
- Globally, healthcare worker infections comprise an average of 10% of all reported cases. In South Africa, this proportion is halved, with health worker infections representing 5% of all national COVID-19 cases.
Active healthcare worker cases, as of 7 August:
- 7 500 active COVID-19 cases
- 751 (10%) were hospitalised
- 6 557 (87%) were in self-isolation
- 192 (3%) were being isolated in a facility
How infections are distributed among different types of healthcare workers:
- 14 143 nurses (52%)
- 1 644 doctors (6%)
- 28 port health workers (less than 1%)
- 11 545 from other health workers (42%)
Publication title: Front line talk -South African health care workers’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic
Author(s): The department of science and innovation, the Human Sciences Research Council, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal
Publication date: 6 August 2020
How do health workers perceive their risk of infections?
The Human Sciences Research Council has surveyed more than 7 000 healthcare workers to find out more about their perceptions of their risk to contract the new coronavirus, their stress levels and how well they’ve been trained in infection control and treatment guidelines. The results were released in August.
- 7 607 healthcare workers across South Africa were surveyed from 11 April – 7 May 2020
- Almost two-thirds of those surveyed worked in formal urban areas, and 3% worked in remote rural areas
- Around 1 in 4 of healthcare workers surveyed worked in Gauteng
- Most participants, just over a third, were nurses
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- Around 70% of health workers were trained in screening and infection control.
- Less than half of nurses reported being trained in treatment guidelines.
- Healthcare workers across provinces saw themselves at high risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 — with those in the North West and Free State seeing themselves at the highest risk.
- Of all healthcare workers surveyed, nurses believed they were the most at risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 and developing COVID-19, the disease that the virus causes (according to health department data, nurses are indeed the group of health workers among which infections are the most common — 52% of SARS-CoV-2 infections in South Africa among healthcare workers are among nurses).
- Just over three-quarters of healthcare workers felt that they were at risk as a result of their profession.
- Other major risk factors were seen as the general public not following guidelines and health workers not having adequate protective gear.
- One of health workers’ biggest worries is that they will pass the infection on to family members, with nurses being the most concerned.
- 1 in 5 healthcare workers said they were severely distressed, while just over half had low distress.
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