Maldives Health Professionals Union (MHPU), on Sunday, called to end discriminatory actions being made against those working in the healthcare sector.
In a tweet made by MHPU, the body urged authorities to protect Maldives' healthcare workforce from all forms of harassment.
The union stated that incidences of healthcare workers being forced out of their homes by building owners were brought to their attention, in addition to other harassment issues.
The issue comes in the wake of an unprecedented lockdown in the capital city and travel bans between all islands across the archipelago, placed under the State of Public Health Emergency declared by the Health Protection Agency on March 12 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 virus among a worldwide pandemic.
Meanwhile, experts at the World Health Organization have released considerations for mental and psychosocial support for healthcare workers, encouraging the general public to "honour carers and healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19 in your community", stressing that individuals need to "acknowledge the role they play in saving lives and keeping your loved ones safe".
Since the first detection, authorities have been collaborating on the front lines to contain the spread of COVID-19 within the community. HPA collects samples as soon as a suspected case is identified, military personnel from Maldives National Defence Force make up the rapid response team that transfers suspected cases to isolation facilities and assist in contact tracing. Maldives Police Service implements HPA's guidelines, in addition to helping the community in various ways. Disaster Management Centre, tourism industry staff, other relevant authorities also play a major role in the fight against COVID-19 as well.
These teams have been working nonstop for two months, but healthcare workers are particularly noteworthy for being the ones that spend the most time with the patients. All professionals in the health sector, from lab technicians to nurses and doctors, are reported to be working round-the-clock to treat patients that tested positive for the virus, test suspected cases, training staff for emergencies and are also conducting contact tracing in an effort to contain the outbreak - all the while ensuring that the unaffected public also continues to receive essential health care.
Government representatives have also confirmed that all healthcare workers, from the time of imported cases to community spread, were provided with adequate IPC and PPE supplies (masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, hand sanitizer, soap and water, cleaning supplies, so forth), which greatly minimizes the risk of contamination or infection.
On April 16, after their two-week quarantine ended and the nurses that treated and closely monitored Maldives' first COVID-19 patients finally returned to duty, Physician of Internal Medicine at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital Dr Mohamed Ali dubbed them "the real heroes" and praised them for their sacrifice.
Health advocate and frequent representative for the medical community on the panel for the National Emergency Operations Centre's daily held press conferences, Dr Nazla Rafeeq echoed his sentiment, iterating her appreciation for those working in the health care sector.
"We need to note the efforts of nurses, lab technicians, ward attendants and others who work alongside doctors taking care of treatments and routine checkups", she said.
On April 15, Communications Undersecretary at the President's Office, Mabrouq Abdul Azeez announced that government of Maldives is compiling a special allowance policy for healthcare professionals, assuring that they would duly receive remuneration for overtime work.
On April 7, in an exclusive interview with The Edition to commemorate World Health Day, WHO Representative to Maldives Dr Arvind Mathur stressed the contributions made by local health care workers in supporting WHO’s global efforts to provide universal health coverage.
Underscoring the necessity to ensure adequate protection for healthcare workers on the frontline, such as personal protective equipment to safeguard them from exposure, Dr Mathur called on policy-makers and leaders of the healthcare sector to ensure appropriate working hours while minimising occupational hazards.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also assured earlier that the administration will provide special support and aid for the healthcare professionals working on the frontlines to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Around the globe, the brunt force of the pandemic has hit health care workers the hardest. The same holds true for Maldives - the country began its nationwide preparations, implementing safety measures from January onward and recently entered a much tougher stage of the outbreak. Within a week, the capital city Male' recorded 35 people who have COVID-19, as the disease began spreading through the community.
Since, health care professionals have been and are gearing up to shoulder the heaviest consequences of the outbreak, the peak of which is estimated to take place 47 days from April 15, the beginning of community spread.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that housing a population of 133,412 in an area of 9.27 square kilometres (3.58 sq mi) makes Male' City one of the most densely populated cities in the world as well as the planet's fifth most densely populated island.
Should a large number of positive cases be found with the completion of contact tracing for the latest COVID-19 cases, it is certain that their workload too will multiple accordingly.
Given the shortcomings of a small developing island nation, authorities have continuously reiterated the importance of appreciating and respecting the efforts being made by healthcare workers, including assuring that they are taken care of and face no stigma at home.