With an alarming surge in cases of coronavirus infection in Nepal, frontline health workers are at high risk of contracting the disease.

According to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD), the number of coronavirus-infected health workers has reached 260 as of Monday.

According to Krishna Raj Pandey, statistics officer at EDCD, there might be more infected health workers and the given number are only reported ones. “We are constantly updating the data, but the number of infected health workers may be even higher as we have not received the exact data from the concerned health institutions,” said Pandey.

As the first case of COVID-19 infection among healthcare personnel, a nurse working in a hospital of Kapilvastu was diagnosed with the virus on April 13. After that, COVID-19 infection among health workers has only sharply risen.

According to EDCD, 60 doctors, 62 nurses, 51 paramedics, 21 lab staffs and 66 health workers have been infected so far.

Health workers staffed in 14 hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley have been infected while health workers of more than 80 health institutions across the country have been infected with coronavirus, according to EDCD.

Joint Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Population, Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari, said, “Health workers are at the highest risk while treating the infected,” adding, “If they are infected, the risk of infection also increases for people who visit hospital for regular health check-ups.”

Stating that both health workers and patients should strictly follow public health protocols, he also warned that all health care institutions across the country could collapse if the situation is not addressed in time.

Meanwhile, health workers in various parts of the nation have been deprived of their promised risk allowance for more than five months now.
Frontline health workers deployed in Soru village of Mugu have not received their risk allowance.

As many as 35 male and three female health workers, working in the help desk as well as quarantine and isolation centers set up by the Rural Municipality Office have not received their allowance from March to August.

A meeting of the Village Executive Committee, held in April, had decided to provide risk allowance of Rs 1,000 per day for food and meals to frontline health workers deployed for coronavirus prevention.

Tak Shahi, a health worker at Nareghat Health Desk, said that he had not received the promised allowance even after four months into the decision. “As we have not been provided with our promised allowance, it has become difficult to pay for food and room rent,” he said.

He has been renting a room near the health desk since March.

Village Municipality Chairman, Lok Bahadur Shahi, cited insufficient budget for not providing the risk allowance to the health workers. He said that the allowance would be provided from the budget of the current fiscal year.