HEALTH CARE WORKERS RESPONDING TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
- Please can we get to know you?
My name is Oluwatofunmi Gbenedio, I am a Medical Doctor.
- What is your role as a healthcare worker in dealing with COVID?
My job required me to work as a general ward physician where I managed patients with milder symptoms of COVID-19, and after a month,, I was stationed at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where more severe cases of the disease were treated.
During both rotations, I did at least 2 rounds on the wards, monitoring each patient’s clinical state while attending to their complaints. However, working in the ICU demanded more time, about 3-4 hours per shift as the patients in the unit needed continuous monitoring.
- What kind of support did you get from the government?
For a voluntary job, all healthcare workers were provided with health insurance and life insurance. Additionally, we got monthly stipends and were provided with accommodation and feeding throughout the 4-month duration of service.
- What is the longest duration of stay which a patient may have at the isolation center?
There is no right answer to this question, as COVID is not a “one size fits all” situation. It is very difficult to say exactly how long a person may remain at the isolation center as this depends on a number of factors. Firstly, we have to take into consideration the absence or presence of another medical condition. We have seen that patients who have one form of illness in addition to being positive tend to remain on admission longer than the average person with no other medical illness. Secondly, individual response to clinical management varies greatly depending on the immune status of the patient.
The patient who stayed the longest was there for over a month and had underlying health issues.
- Can you tell me about the most challenging moment for you during this period?
My most challenging moment would be when I was stationed at the Intensive Care Unit. There, I saw patients with very severe cases of the virus. Despite all interventions, losing some of these patients was one of the most difficult experiences I have had. Maintaining a stable mental health while being there for my patients and relatives was the very challenging for me.
Thankfully, we had sessions with a therapist, where we shared our thoughts and fears and tried to overcome them together as a team.
- How did you deal with a colleague who tested positive for COVID?
This was definitely inevitable considering the daily exposure we all had as we came in contact with patients, despite adequate infection prevention and control measures put in place. So, yes, a number of health workers tested positive for the virus, fortunately none were lost.
We treated them as we did our patients, as most were asymptomatic. They isolated themselves for 14 days and came back to work once they became negative.
- How have you managed self-care during this crisis, especially if you have been isolated away from your family?
The Young Presidents Organization (YPO) who spearheaded the Eti-Osa Isolation Center did a remarkable job in ensuring our family and friends were protected by securing on-site accommodation for workers, thereby limiting our physical contact with loved ones. In addition, following an intensive training on infection prevention and control, I ensured appropriate donning and doffing of my personal protective equipment.
- Is there anything you would have changed or done differently?
The spread of covid is mainly prevented or eliminated at the community level. As a doctor, you can contribute to that by using a trusted and approved platform by the hospital to sensitize people of its mode of spread, dissemination of accurate information, encouraging people to use masks and sanitizers, washing hands and avoiding large gatherings.
The American government took a laissez-faire approach to covid, that’s why they have such high numbers of cases.
New Zealand on the other hand took proactive measures – closed borders early, enforced lockdown etc. And because her citizens were made to understand how virulent the virus was, they adhered to the protocols and stayed indoors unless otherwise necessary so they would not overwhelm their healthcare system.
While commending the efforts of hospitals in the fight against covid 19, it is unsure what one doctor alone can do/could have done solely to change the outcome of the virus’ effects. After all, most of the measures that could be undertaken come from the government: enforcing lockdowns, curfews, limiting movement of people, basically cracking down.
- What advice would you give other colleagues to work through the pandemic?
My experience working on the frontline has made me appreciate both the frailty and tenacity of the human life. As a loved one could be lost in a blink of an eye. I have learned to appreciate the people I hold dear, and my resolve is to spend more time with them, without regrets.
To my colleagues, please stay safe! Keep up the good work!! Spend time with loved ones!!!
- What advice will you give to the public regarding this virus?
COVID-19 IS REAL but isolation and social distancing are not the end of the world. You can’t pray in your churches or mosques and it’s frustrating. We understand. So invite God into your homes; He is omnipresent. You can’t go to your favorite restaurant to eat your favorite meal, so learn how to cook from YouTube. Connect with your friends and loved ones virtually. Use this period to acquire a new skill, educate yourself more or just simply relax.
We will eventually overcome this seemingly hopeless situation. The important thing is to protect each other by protecting yourself. STAY SAFE, practice your universal guidelines, and stay informed.