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Healthcare workers feeling the strain of COVID-19 surge


Adriel Richard

Healthcare workers feeling the strain of COVID-19 surge
Dr Corey Forde (GP)

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George and Isolation Facilities Manager Dr Corey Forde said healthcare workers on the frontline of the battle against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Barbados were beginning to feel the physical and mental strain.

George and Forde shared their concerns about the toll the surge of cases in Barbados over the past month was having on healthcare workers during an update about the current COVID-19 situation in the island during a virtual news conference on Wednesday.

Forde said healthcare workers, including himself, have endured long hours, sleepless nights, and neglect of their personal affairs to be able to remain in place and manage the fight for lives in the island’s isolation facilities.

“Once you have 1 000 people in isolation, I think the general public has to understand things will not be normal,” he said. “We are not living in normal times.

“Once you have reached that number, you have to match medical care, and that impacts on medical professionals and the hours they are working, so things are not going to be normal.”

He said: “We are going to do everything we possibly can to ensure they are (stable), so if you do not get your meal on time (in an isolation facility), do not get angry. Things are not normal.

“We will try every single thing we can to ensure that it is. If there is something that you want to point out to us that we can get better, even with these numbers, I want you to do it, but do it in the right way.”

Forde disclosed medical staff have had to deal with fighting and other anti-social behaviour from people in the isolation facilities and this added to the burdens being placed on them.

“We are stretched,” he said. “We are stretched not only in terms of numbers (of patients), but we are also stretched in terms of doctors.

“I lost one of my doctors (on Tuesday) in terms of being ill and another one is going to go off for their own personal stuff and that’s where we are at in the country… but help is on the way.”

He added: “There is burn-out of physicians. People are tired. They still have to do their normal lives. We were discussing it only (on Tuesday).

“We were discussing that ‘I am not able to pay my Digicel bill’, ‘I am not able to pay my electricity bill’, ‘I see the bills come in and is due for disconnection’, and that’s the reality for many of us on the ground. I cannot even get to go to the bank to do anything… These are not normal times.”

George said though he and Forde might be the public face of the medical staff battling the illness, there were several unsung heroes.

“The team is an amazing team,” he said. “There are the medical officers of health, the contact tracers, the public health nurse who have all decided to and together and add value to our vaccine response by working sometimes up to nine at night.

“People in environmental health who have gone beyond the call of duty. Our community health liaison officers who have been supporting Mr (Ronald) Chapman and his team (at the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit).”

He continued: “Our quarantine engagement unit that reaches out to hotels and other business house to ensure that people remain in quarantine, and they do some due diligence efforts.

“Our hotline unit that ensures that questions are being answered on a daily basis and, finally, we inaugurated a cell in the ministry of health that is based on logistics and operations. It is a 16-hour operation every single day beginning at 6 a.m. and is responsible for the coordination for all things COVID-19 in Barbados.”

George said it was a highly complex operation to manage the island’s response to the pandemic, and it required plenty human resources, organisation and sacrifice.

“It is not haphazard in any fashion or form,” he said. “With the contribution of the government of Barbados, we only ask you (Barbadians) to do your part because I believe… there will always be issues in any battle.

“You are not going to get a situation where you are going to arrive at an isolation facility and consider it a hotel. It is not going to occur. Bear with us. But know there are several other individuals toiling behind the scenes and trying to make Barbados as safe as possible.” (AR)

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