In Touch | Who is taking care of the carers?

Amid the pandemic no one stops to think about what all this is doing to the health workers who are in the front lines. Who has stopped to think about the well-being of those thousands who have been taking care of us and our loved ones in health care facilities? Imagine if it were you that had to watch so many people under your care die in a way you have never experienced before. Can you imagine the emotional toll? They tend to people who are literally hanging on by a thread, trying to draw just another breath, let alone trying to remain alive and beat the illness. Imagine that happening every day, multiple times.

As if this is not enough, there is the ever present danger of contracting Coronavirus themselves. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that more than  115 000 health workers have succumbed to the virus worldwide. In South Africa, there were more than 400 health worker deaths at the last count in December 2020. In the health sector in the Eastern Cape  there have been 12,138 positive cases; 1,139 hospitalisations and 307 deaths. Among health workers the nurses have had the highest infection rate, followed by doctors and clinical associates and most of them from the Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City Municipalities. Chris Hani is averaging around 11 new Covid-19 cases a day for the general population and 184 active cases as of Wednesday, with a 34% fatality rate. With the new and more virulent strain now wreaking havoc during the third wave across the country, I am sure the death toll will increase.

The third burden and the most worrisome to the health workers, is the fear that each and every day they go to work then risk bringing the virus home to their partners, children and elderly relatives in their households. There is nothing worse than knowing something can happen and there is little you can do to avoid it. So basically, the health workers are running the gauntlet each and every day they go to work. Let us spare a thought for them and be more considerate of them each time we go to a health facility. Many have been doing jobs meant to be done by three or even six people because of the increased numbers of people needing health care and because of the sad demise of their colleagues due to the pandemic. Worryingly, there are 33 post-vaccination infections so far, of health workers, mostly from the Nelson Mandela Bay metro.

I am sure these statistics put into perspective the dangers that face the health workers every day while they leave their families to take care of us. They truly are our heroes and we should view them as such. The question is, who takes care of these wonderful carers? Do we treat them with kindness and understanding? Do they get psychological support to deal with the trauma of losing so many patients in such a short space of time? Are they getting more human resource support in the form of extra hands being hired to lighten the load on their already drooping shoulders? Let us take care of the carers, we owe them that much. Now go and be vaccinated when your turn comes to reduce the numbers that may need hospitalisation.