Catholic Mission Hospital in Zimbabwe Struggling amid COVID-19 Infections in Workers

Entrance to the St Albert’s Mission hospital in Zimbabwe’s Archdiocese of Chinhoyi.

Only seven nurses have been left to cover shifts at St Albert’s Mission hospital in Zimbabwe’s Archdiocese of Chinhoyi after their 26 colleagues tested positive for COVID-19.

Dozens of staff members at the Catholic-owned hospital have tested positive of the coronavirus, a situation that is “wreaking havoc” at the hospital, the leadership of the Diocese’s Social Communications has announced.

“One of our mission hospitals in the Diocese has been severely affected by the pandemic. A total of 34 staff members have tested positive for the virus at St Albert’s Mission Hospital in Centenary Mash Central. This includes 26 nurses,” the Diocese has reported on its official Facebook page Wednesday, January 13.

A staff member who spoke to the Diocese’s Social Communications leadership said that the hospital was on the verge of closing up shop owing to the limited workers.

“Last week the Hospital was about to shut its doors because those who tested positive and their contacts were on isolation and quarantine so there were only 7 Nurses on duty for all the shifts and the situation is terrible,” Mrs. Kangundu, the Hospital Matron said.

On her part, Dr Julia Musariri who works at the Mission Hospital said that the hospital urgently needed more Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in order to capacitate the skeletal staff that is still available at the hospital.

Zimbabwe has experienced a spike in its second wave of COVID-19 infections that has seen the country record 9,149 cases between December 29 and January 11. As of January 13, Zimbabwe had recorded 23,239 COVID-19 cases with 551 deaths and 13,396 recoveries.

The high rate of infections has prompted the government to put strict lockdown measures in order to contain the catastrophe. The measures include the banning of families from transporting dead relatives to their areas of birth for burial, a move that has attracted mixed reactions in the Southern African country.

Police in Zimbabwe also banned public viewing of bodies and the tradition of having a corpse stay overnight in the family’s home before burial.

The drastic measures were, however, criticized by the Zimbabwe Association for Human Rights Doctors (ZAHDR), which said the approach was not grounded in science.

But in a reflection, “Understanding the government’s directive on the movement of bodies”, Fr. Limukani Ndlovu, a Priest in the Catholic Archdiocese of Bulawayo observed that the government has been pushed to the wall in reinforcing measures that do not sit well with people to contain COVID-19.

“The position taken by the government may seem awkward, not resonating well with our faith, cultural and traditional values; it may sound unpleasant and undesirable and yet we are caught in between choosing two evils,” says Fr. Ndlovu.

He adds, “Wrong or unfair methods may be used if the overall goal is good, hence the ethical principle: ‘The end justifies the means.’ We hope and trust that the directive will apply to everybody equally and without favour or fear.” 

He further says that any decision and choice that safeguards and promotes life and livelihoods is good and acceptable to God.

“A Ndebele (indigenous language in Zimbabwe) proverb goes, akumango ongelathuna literally means there is no place where one cannot be buried. We belong to God wherever we may be buried. We belong to God whether we are buried or not,” the Cleric says in the Tuesday, January 12 reflection.

According to the Cleric who serves as Director of Emthonjeni Pastoral Centre, a training centre in the Archdiocese, “It is incumbent upon each and every citizen to break the thread of Coronavirus transmission. This responsibility is not a matter of law only but it calls for conscience formation.”

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