Fear grips nurses

Fear grips nurses

MASERU-AT the forefront of the fight against Covid-19, nurses and midwives say they are physically and emotionally bearing the brunt of a virus that has brought the world to its knees.

Their work puts them at high risk of contracting the virus, yet, with the country counting on them, they have little choice but to continue working.
Mothepane Thahane, a nurse at Ts’epong Hospital, says the current situation at the hospital has left her colleagues shaken and in need of counselling.
“Nurses see patients coming to the hospital in droves and diagnosed with Covid-19. Some end up dying here. It is traumatising,” she says.
“Nurses are trying to deal with the outbreak although it is tough.”

With a surge in numbers of Covid-19 infections, Thahane says the government has asked them to take measures to take patients in larger numbers.
As it is now, Ts’epong has been allocated 29 registered nurses, seven nurse assistants, two doctors and three porters, she says.
The aim is to have 200 beds for Covid-19 patients because Mafeteng and Berea hospitals are overcrowded.

Thahane says the hospital has enough oxygen supplies for its patients.
Another nurse from Mafeteng government hospital who asked to remain anonymous because she did not ask management for permission to speak to the media says they are gripped by fear.
She says out of 20 patients visiting the hospital, 17 are diagnosed with Covid-19.
“The situation is dire here,” the nurse says.
Generally, lack of oxygen and proper health facilities for the health practitioners enrage the nurses.

Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) secretary general, ’Mamonica Mokhesi Makhosonke, says association’s members had mooted going on strike last week due to the harsh conditions they are working under.
But they were pleased by the lockdown announcement, which they hope will reduce infections. Still, the issue of PPEs and other measures to protect health professionals is still a concern, she says.

Nurses, she says, are forced to compromise their own lives by amongst others practising “mouth to mouth” procedures to revive patients due to lack of equipment.
She says they are dissatisfied with the delays in releasing Covid-19 results which forces the health practitioners to work without knowing the status of their patients.

She says this is likely to endanger the lives of the people they are treating.
Makhosonke condemns the health facilities that are forcing people to work even when they are suspects.
“We heard that at ’Mamohau Hospital the health practitioners are being forced to work yet there is clear evidence of contact with the infected,” she says.
“Covid-19 is painful let alone when there is oxygen shortage. People cry endlessly because they cannot breathe. As nurses we are in the midst of all these,” Makhosonke says.

“We are in a traumatic situation as we sometimes have to watch a patient die when something could have been done to save them. We always go to the mortuaries because people die,” she says.
They have also lost some health practitioners due to lack of oxygen adding that people who say oxygen supplies are readily available in all hospitals “are telling lies”.

“Some clinics do not have it at all. It is now a competition to get to that oxygen cylinder,” Makhosonke says.
Nurses get calls “throughout the day and night” from people who ask for favours for their loved ones in dire need of oxygen.
“We cannot help because there is also nothing we can do about it,” she says.
The association is advising the government to turn all unoccupied schools into wards to cater for the growing numbers of patients as well as recruit more health professionals.

“It is never too late to save lives,” she says, adding that some professionals hired lately are not being incentivised.
“Those people were hired but they do not even have contracts therefore they will not be paid. We do not know why the government is not paying such people who work hard during these life and death situations.
Makhosonke however praised Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro for imposing a two-week lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19.
The economy is at risk but at least people’s lives are saved, she says.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health Motlatsi Maqelepo has blamed senior staff for not taking proactive measures to ensure adequate oxygen supplies.
He says it is the responsibility of the hospital director to travel to the Botšabelo plant to refill their oxygen cylinders.
The International Council of Nurses’ latest analysis shows that the number of nurses who have died after contracting Covid-19 is 1 500, up from 1 097 in August.

The figure, which includes nurses from only 44 of the world’s 195 countries, is said to be an underestimate of the true numbers of deaths.
ICN’s own analysis suggests that about 10 percent of cases globally are among healthcare workers.
As of this week there are more than 43 million cases worldwide with approximately 2.6 percent of those, 1.1 million, resulting in deaths.

Nkheli Liphoto & Majara Molupe

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