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Stigma, Safety and Support: Prioritising Wellbeing in Uganda

3 July 2020


We caught up with Vicky Opia, the Executive Director of Peace Hospice Adjumani (PEACHOA), to find out how COVID-19 is impacting health workers in Uganda and how PEACHOA is working in partnership with Cairdeas International Palliative Care Trust to provide psychosocial support.

As per 12th June 2020, Uganda has registered 679 positive COVID-19 patients, including 52 positive cases from Adjumani District that are being managed in Adjumani General Hospital. The District has 500 trained health workers, including 179 working at the hospital. These health workers have a range of  skills to support the wellbeing of patients and families who suffer from communicable and non-communicable diseases, including Ebola and COVID-19.

The health workers are exposed to hazards on a daily basis, including pathogen exposure, long working hours, and psychological distress. This is particularly pronounced during this period, with over 16 health workers becoming infected with COVID-19 so far across the country.

With the support of THET through the Health Worker Action Fund, Peace Hospice Adjumani (PEACHOA), in partnership with Cairdeas International Palliative Care Trust, will be able to offer psychosocial support to health workers involved directly in the management of patients with COVID-19. We believe that health workers have the ability to be empathetic to all those affected in and out of the community, treating patients with the support, compassion and kindness they deserve, and the ability to help to manage the fears, expectations and worries of patients impacted by COVID-19, their families and the community. In order to reduce stigma, it is important for health workers and the community to separate a person’s identity from COVID-19, rather than defining a person by it.

Psychosocial support training will encourage calmness by reinforcing active and positive coping skills that enable health workers to better manage their emotional and psychological reactions while managing patients with COVID 19. It will promote connectedness and mutual support by reinforcing a natural support system, and instill a positive and future oriented sense of hope that can help individuals (both health workers and patients) take adaptive steps during difficult periods of their lives. It will also promote resilience and wellbeing among health workers during the management of patients with COVID-19, specifically the ability to handle stress in a healthy and adaptive way

Finally, various health worker bottlenecks can be addressed by tackling wellbeing and ensuring productive relationships among health facility workers and between providers and patients during a pandemic, while psychosocial support training can have a positive impact on the functionality of the health system as a whole with respect to performance, productivity, safety and quality of care.

Vicky Opia – Executive Director, Peace Hospice Adjumani

Health worker team at Adjumani Hospital.