Bulawayo Bureau

Health workers, including nurses and doctors, from today will work for a full week and then go off duty for two weeks, returning after a Covid-19 test.

The switch in work routine changes the flexible hours routine to reduce risk of infection by ensuring that they are not infected by colleagues.

Health workers have the highest risk of infection since they deal with sick people.

Health workers had been working “flexible hours”, an arrangement introduced through a collective bargaining agreement to cushion them, and in particular nurses, from seeing transport costs chew up their pay.

The workers would report for work for fewer shifts each week, but work more hours on each shift. Most nurses were working two days a week for 12 hours a day.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the new arrangement for health workers to work one week on and two weeks off can be changed at any time depending on the situation.

In an interview yesterday, Health Services Board chairperson Dr Paulinus Sikosana said the change was made by the Ministry of Health and Child Care last week.

“The rationale was that basically health workers get exposed to Covid-19 patients.

“They rest and they will be tested before they come back to work and usually one shows signs between two and 14 days,” said Dr Sikosana.

In a letter dated May 11 to all provincial medical directors and chief executive officers, the then Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr Agnes Mahomva said the new system will reduce exposure of health workers to Covid-19.

Dr Mahomva was last week appointed by President Mnangagwa to the newly created post of chief coordinator, national response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet .

Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Mr Enock Dongo said nurses would work eight-hour shifts during their week of duty.