Forced to choose who lives and who dies
Heartbreakingly candid. These words describe the experiences of Dora Nginza Hospital staff as told to health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize this week.
Mkhize was on a two-day visit to Nelson Mandela Bay to check up on hospitals as the region struggles to cope with the increasing number of Covid-19 cases.
Among those who told Mkhize their concerns was Dr Lokuthula Maphalala, a consultant at the hospital’s Covid-19 unit who described how the lack of basics was impeding their efforts to treat patients.
“We’re not even talking about ventilators.
“I just want some beds, oxygen, monitors and some infusion points,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s so bad that the patient will get to the ward and then everyone will realise there isn’t a point — and then you have to choose out of the patients there who deserves oxygen more.”
Maphalala said patients who could have been saved were dying as nurses were also finding themselves overwhelmed.
Yes, we all know that doctors and nurses took professional oaths and pledges, but stop for a moment and put yourselves in their shoes.
Part of the Nurses’ Pledge of Service reads “The total health of my patients will be my first consideration.”
Now imagine being unable to fulfil that commitment because you don’t have the necessary equipment and have to choose in a ward full of patients who will get the much-needed oxygen.
Or that you are unable to give a patient the one-on-one care he or she so desperately needs because there are dozens of others needing your help and you are one of only three nurses on the shift.
All this while fearing that you, too, may be infected with this very virus that is incapacitating your patients.
It can never be easy making those decisions — having the next person’s life in your hands.
Never mind having to watch patients slip away alone as they die except for other patients and staff.
For that reason one hopes there are measures in places to help all those medical staff deal with the trauma of what is most likely to be one of the most trying periods of their careers.
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