The Plight of Front-line Workers
This is a difficult story for me to write. I am a doctor who works in the accident and emergency department of a busy hospital and while I would say I am lucky to be well and hope to get vaccinated soon, it is not the same story for my colleagues who have lost their lives to Covid-19.
There are over fifteen doctors in different stages of their careers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, there are several nurses and clinical officers too. That is unfortunately the price that we, as health workers have had to pay; death.
Here are some of the things that health workers have had to struggle with amidst fighting Covid-19:
Unsafe working environments.
Nurses and doctors working in isolation units where Covid-19 patients were being admitted have found themselves in a situation where they work with no proper protective gears.
Initially, they were required to work with minimal protection because there was a global shortage of all protective gear from the hazmat suits, N-95 masks, protective goggles, boots et cetera.
Also, there is the issue of the government availing poor quality protective equipment like masks whose strings snap in the midst of a procedure, hazmat suits and aprons that are not waterproof, oversize or undersize hazmat suits et cetera.
Most of the isolation units were being run by junior doctors and nurses and a majority of them were ill-trained to handle Covid-19.
Some hospitals also lack running water.
Lack of compensation or proper remuneration
Working in the hospital comes with its own set of challenges and dangers. There is the constant danger of getting infected with diseases such as hepatitis and tuberculosis.
Working in the hospitals in the era of Covid-19 obviously puts one in a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 than the general population. This is bad enough.
It is worse when the risk doesn’t come with a financial cushion.
Doctors who were recruited to work in Covid-19 centres for example had to stay for a period of six months before receiving their salaries can you imagine that?
Lack of good medical covers
Hospital workers who contract Covid-19 in line of duty have found themselves unable to cater for the cost of treatment which is not covered by the insurance covers provided by the government.
This is unfortunate and hence most of them have had to resort to fundraisings to cater for a disease they contracted in line of duty!
Overworking and burn out
Most public and private hospitals were severely understaffed even before the Covid-19 pandemic.
With Covid-19. Most healthcare workers found themselves working longer hours and under more pressure due to the increased influx of patients to the hospitals.
In 2020, most healthcare workers’ leaves were put on hold. In addition to working longer than expected, most of them could not take their annual leaves also.
Anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges
Though depression is common among healthcare workers, Covid-19 may have worsened the already bad situation.
Most healthcare workers found themselves depressed from working very long hours, not being able to see their families’ due to the need to self-isolate, and from seeing their colleagues contract covid-19 and die.
Reading stories and statistics from the west drove some of my friends into completing their wills and preparing for any eventuality, death included!