We are witnessing the surreal images of a society that seems to have come to a standstill with empty streets, quiet cities, deserted airports and closed restaurants due to COVID-19. Along with the desperately sad and worrying news headlines about the spread of the virus, there has been some immense self-sacrifice. We feel incredibly grateful to every single doctor and nurse working around the clock, pushing themselves to the limit and putting their lives on the line, often with limited resources - you are the true heroes.
Dr Brandon Trice, who works at Groote Schuur Hospital as a Pathologist in the Lab Department, said that in the midst of COVID-19 they have had to reduce the number of autopsies done and reduce the services they offer.
“It has affected our working hours for a period of about three weeks,” Trice said. “We were also able to work off-site so we did not come into work every single day.”
Dr. Tony Wu, who is also a Pathologist at Groote Schuur Hospital has stated the seriousness of this virus. “There have been deaths in theatre staff,” Wu said. “The labs had to close down temporarily for decontamination.” The COVID-19 outbreak is an incredibly fast-moving event. Every day brings new information about the pathology of the virus, how it spreads and what proportion of the population are in critical condition. If the virus does not seem to contract over the next few months, our efforts now would have us prepared for then. Even though the spreading of this virus seems inevitable, time will provide us with more and better information from all over the world to be available on the severity and origins of this virus. This will provide our Medical Professionals with better treatment options and diagnostic measures.
When asked if they feel the effect of COVID-19 is as serious as the media suggests, Trice responded, “Yes, it definitely is, but we haven’t noticed anything in our department. It’s still too early to tell what’s going to happen. We haven’t had any increase of calls or numbers of autopsies of patients that we suspected to have covered. I think the media does tend to exaggerate things but I think the Healthcare System is going to be really stretched if the number of cases continue to increase.”
Trice has stated that in order to combat this virus, hospitals need to have very strict rules on social distancing, the wearing of a face mask at all times and the frequent washing of hands.
“We can't stop the virus, but it's going to allow it to be transmitted at a rate that a public health system can manage with.”
Doctors in all departments at Groote Schuur Hospital have been instructed to institute a daily report on any symptoms they have and their temperatures are taken when they walk into their department first thing in the morning.
“I guess in the meantime we just have to protect ourselves and to report to testing as soon as possible if there are any signs of symptoms,” Wu said.
Doctors who have opened their doors are ensuring that their practices are completely disinfected and everything is kept in a sanitized condition. Closer monitoring of patients coming in is done and wiping down of equipment after every use. Staff are wearing masks and gloves at all times and doctors are making sure there is a staff member at the entrance to sanitize each patient coming in.
You cannot rely on your staff to take care of other people if your staff don’t think you’re taking care of them. We can appeal to the better nature of our teams, but they won’t rise to the challenge if they think we don’t care about them - and if they think we don’t care about them, they won’t have the emotional capacity to care for patients.
People are expressing anxiety, which is understandable - there are reasons to worry, but there are things we can do as leaders to acknowledge and lower that anxiety, starting now.
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