Medical staff share their Covid-19 concerns

DESPERATE MEASURES: Eastern Cape nurses and doctors have shared their fears over the killer coronavirus and are also trying to take steps to shield their families from infection
DESPERATE MEASURES: Eastern Cape nurses and doctors have shared their fears over the killer coronavirus and are also trying to take steps to shield their families from infection

By staying at home you’re saving more than one life.

That is the word from nurses and doctors across the province who shared their concerns around Covid-19 and the importance of self-isolation.

A 27-year-old nurse from East London said each time people stepped out of their homes they put the lives of their community and loved ones at risk.

The nurse, who did not want to be named, said it was ridiculous that people were moving around as if there was no lockdown.

“I wake up each morning feeling fearful. What scares me most about the coronavirus is that people act like it doesn’t exist,” the nurse, who works at the Nompumelelo clinic, said.

The 27-year-old said she had been working as a nurse for three years, but joined the team at Nompumelelo the same week SA received its first Covid-19 positive result.

“It’s scary. The streets are busy and there is not a police vehicle or SANDF vehicle in sight.

“We try to educate our people daily about the virus and the importance of staying indoors, staying clean, keeping distance.

“People are misusing masks and gloves, and we are going to end up losing stock.

“There are new regulations coming in almost every week.

“Initially health care workers had to wear N95 respiratory masks and client would wear a surgical mask.

“But now the regulation is that only those who are working with Covid-19 patients must wear N95 masks and the rest of us must wear surgical masks.

“My worry is that in wearing a surgical mask the chances are 50/50, because it doesn’t necessarily protect you from a Covid-19 carrier, it merely reduces the chances of transmission.

“It is very difficult to protect ourselves because sometimes you don’t realise someone has a cough until they are in front of you,” she said.

A student nurse at Port Elizabeth's Mercantile Hospital said they had not yet received training on Covid-19.

She said she worried daily about her children’s health.

“Before the lockdown I sent my children to live with my mother out of fear.

“The problem is that people are not honest; they don’t disclose their health condition or their habits because they think they are fine as they do not have the symptoms.

It’s selfish, really.

“They then come to the emergency unit putting the lives of nurses and doctors at risk.

It takes just one person, and the slightest cough or sneeze, and everything is contaminated,” she said.

The student nurse said she had changed her diet as well as the toiletries her family used.

“I try by all means to take a bath as soon as I return home from work before doing or touching anything.

“And I have laid down a few rules for my siblings and aunt at home.

They know the importance of isolation and try to keep very little contact with other people outside our yard,” she said.

She said the rate at which Covid-19 was spreading was scary, adding that some people never showed signs of having the virus even when infected.

“To be honest, it is not nice being a nurse during this pandemic,” she said.

A 66-year-old doctor said her main concern was social distancing in informal settlements.

“It is almost impossible to keep a social distance when there are 10 people living in a one-bedroom home.

“People move around a lot in these areas because they do not have water in their homes and they share one communal toilet.

“Covid-19 has caused a lot of mayhem but the only way we can truly suppress the spread is by adopting healthy habits,” she said.

The doctor said people needed to educate themselves about the virus so they could self-test for Covid-19.

“It is the winter season and people are going to have colds, but only people who  have a cough with breathing difficulties will be tested.

“My colleague who is a paediatrician had a patient that was very ill and the medical aid did not pay.

The child's family did not have the money to pay for the test, so the doctor ended up paying for it to be done out of fear,” she said.

The 66-year-old said everyone had a role to play in flattening the curve, and as long as the lockdown was taken seriously and people prayed, all South Africans would be safe.