Covid-19 pandemic puts further strain on healthcare workers
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Cape Town - The safety of healthcare workers and the conditions they find themselves in continues to be the Western Cape government's headache as 92 have died from Covid-19.
There are currently 1029 active infections of healthcare workers just weeks before the country rolls out the vaccination prioritizing them.
Briefing the media on Tuesday, head of provincial health Dr Keith Cloete said their biggest challenge was the increasing Covid-19 infection rate amongst health care workers, and the impact on staff member isolation and quarantine.
“The availability of additional staff members for contract work and via agencies is also a significant challenge. The number of people willing to volunteer their services has also decreased significantly,” he said.
As at on Tuesday there were 98 doctors, 442 nurses, 23 radiographers, seven pharmacists and 459 other workers including admin staff, kitchen workers, cleaners etc were recovering from the virus.
Premier Alan Winde said: “Our hospitals and healthcare workers are working under extreme pressure to ensure that every person who needs a bed and care has access to one but we all have a role to play in ensuring that we relieve that pressure.”
Despite battling with the burden of the virus since the beginning of the first wave, head of the Groote Schuur Hospital Emergency Unit (EU) Dr Annemarie Kropman told the Cape Times on Tuesday that seeing her team becoming more resilient and stronger has been the highlight of the pandemic.
The doctor with more than 20 of service recalled her first encounter with the coronavirus.
“I don’t remember the first Covid positive case I saw, but I do remember our first PUI (person under investigation). We started preparing for Covid on January 22 last year. Our first patient, who met the criteria, presented in March last year,” she said.
She counted the fear of bringing the virus home and Covid-fatigue among the challenges faced by her team.
“It’s being seen in the public with lack of mask wearing and socializing without precautions. It is being witnessed in healthcare workers with small lapses in the IPC guidelines we placed in March. It has required lots of reiterating about the risks and regular reminding and watching each other to ensure we still keep each other and ourselves safe,” she said.
In spite of jumping from admitting 20-30 patients to medicine per day pre-Covid to now admitting 60 to 70 patients per day, Kropman said it was not all that grim.
“There are periods when we are tight for space, but plans are made every day to adapt and cope with the numbers and that has been amazing to witness. Seeing our team becoming stronger has been a highlight,” she said.
As of on Tuesday the Western Cape had 41 285 active Covid-19 infections and recorded an additional 163 additional deaths, bringing the toll to 8482.
The provincial government was cautiously optimistic that the second wave was starting to stabilise, hospitals were still experiencing significant pressure, reflected by occupancies in the Covid-19 general beds.
A total of 3482 people were currently in hospitals with 381 of these in ICU or high care.
“Our metro hospitals have an average occupancy of 93%, the George drainage area 61%, Paarl drainage area 74% and Worcester drainage area at 73%,” Winde said.
Cloete added that the system to provide on-site support to frontline staff in terms of mental well-being was being scaled-up.
The province was also focused on its readiness to implement the vaccination programme, learning from the IEC’s logistics methods in registering large numbers of people to vote.
Cloete said they had appointed an expert advisory committee and were meeting with the private sector on Thursday as they intend on working collaboratively.
Important considerations were logistics, healthcare worker training and day to day tracking of how many people were being vaccinated and where.
The process would work something like this: “Each person will be given an appointment, when you arrive you sign consent, then get your first dose then you are given another appointment for the second dose and issued a proof of vaccination. You will also be registered on an electronic system to show that you received a vaccine. After the second dose then you would have completed the vaccine,” Cloete said.
In phase one about 100 000 healthcare workers would be vaccinated.
No children and pregnant women would be vaccinated because vaccines were not tested on them.