Psychiatric medical officer Dr Tevin Naidu says the outbreak taught healthcare workers a lot about disaster management and emergency public health. Picture: Supplied.
Psychiatric medical officer Dr Tevin Naidu says the outbreak taught healthcare workers a lot about disaster management and emergency public health. Picture: Supplied.

A year of Covid-19 in SA: We are more prepared now, say healthcare workers

By Kelly Jane Turner Time of article published Mar 5, 2021

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Healthcare workers on the front line have been battling the Covid-19 outbreak in the country for a year now and some say they feel better equipped to deal with the virus.

Covid-19 coordinator and ward nurse at Groote Schuur Hospital Sister Melody Camelo says while there was a lot of anxiousness at the start of the outbreak, looking back she feels hospitals have developed better procedures to manage treating patients.

“The most hectic time for us was the first wave because we didn’t know what to expect and we had to put procedures in place very quickly. Comparing when the outbreak started until now, if there is another wave, I think we would be a bit more prepared because we’ve got certain systems in place, not only in terms of equipment and how staff can handle the outbreak, but also in terms of support for the staff,” she said.

The 57-year-old Camelo is a wife and mother of two children and has been working as a healthcare worker for over 20 years.

“I remember when the outbreak started, when the first person was diagnosed with the virus, it sparked an awareness within myself because my elderly mother lives with me and my husband has comorbidities,” she said.

“My family has been supportive from the beginning and they never said I couldn’t go work on the front line. When I get home in the evenings, my husband would be my pillar of strength and the person I could actually speak to about things that happened during the day.”

A psychiatric medical officer in Cape Town, Dr Tevin Naidu recalled the first few weeks of the outbreak in the country and said it has definitely taught healthcare workers a lot about disaster management and emergency public health.

“I think this was a great way to prepare us for the next great pandemic. I still remember how confusing it was trying to implement protocols and processes when Covid first arrived.

’’Setting up tents outside the hospital, designating testing stations, waiting areas, prepping the environment for safe/social distancing/good hygiene. The second wave showed us that we had learnt a lot because it was much easier to then implement certain strategies without making the same mistakes as before. We continue to learn from this stage too and will have a better response each time,” he said.

“I still remember treating my first case. That eventually progressed to treating hundreds of Covid-19 patients. I also remember the first patient I lost due to Covid-19. It’s been a hectic journey to say the least. I’ve lost several loved ones during the second wave too. It has not been an easy time for me or my family.”

Psychiatric medical officer Dr Tevin Naidu says the outbreak taught healthcare workers a lot about disaster management and emergency public health. Picture: Supplied.

An aspect during the outbreak which amazed Camelo was the teamwork within the Covid-19 wards and interacting with staff she had never previously worked with.

“There was a togetherness amongst the staff and that was amazing for me. You see a lot of things happening around you, every hour you see a patient passing and that had never happened before Covid-19,” she said.

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