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Doctors in Lesotho strike over lack of coronavirus protection

The health workers’ strike is now threatening to derail efforts.
The health workers’ strike is now threatening to derail efforts.
Image: Tyler Olson/ 123RF.com

A strike by doctors and nurses is the latest hurdle in Lesotho’s fight against Covid-19.

Although Lesotho doesn’t have a confirmed case of the disease the government has been scrounging for resources to prepare for an imminent crisis.

A lockdown has been announced and M700 million set aside to fight the deadly disease.

Quarantine areas have been identified, testing is being rolled out and a public awareness campaign has started.

But the health workers’ strike is now threatening to derail those efforts.

Doctors and nurses this week said they will not handle Covid-19 patients unless the government provides protective clothing.

Clinics and hospitals have been rejecting outpatients since Monday, only dealing with emergencies and children under five.

The health workers are calling it a “go-slow” but the impact amounts to a strike because there is very little work at the health centres.

Busa Qhala, who speaks for the coalition of the health workers, told a local newspaper that “all health care practitioners will not attend to all suspected covid-19 cases” until they get the protective clothing”.

Qhala said 200 health centres are on go-slow and more will soon join.

He said they want the government’s commitment to pay full salaries to all doctors and nurses that might be infected by the virus.  

They also want to be trained on how to handle Covid-19 patients.

Qhala said in addition they want to be consulted when the government makes major decision during the crisis. “We are not soldiers, we don't go by orders,” Qhala said.

“We are on the grassroots level, we know what the people need and we know who to approach and who we use in health care support”.

The Lesotho government says it is in talks with the health workers to resolve their complaints.

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