Botswana: Front Liners Appeal for Compliance

Gaborone — Many firefighters have seen the horrors of raging fires destroying homes and forests.

Terrifying as it is in their quest to put off the fire, save lives and nature, they know the kind of battle they are facing and can recognise whether they are fighting a losing battle or not.

However, with the COVID-19, the battle is a different one.

Doctors and nurses are facing an unprecedented battle with no end in sight. As the risk of COVID-19 becomes visible to all Dr Mbi Mbi, Dr Refilwe George and Nursing Officer 1, Ms Dolly Ramanankane took a moment off their busy schedules at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital to talk to the nation.

All they want is for the people to abide by the regulations which include restricted movement which is the primary remedy towards combating the virus.

The virus, they say does not move around on its own, but the people are the ones spreading the virus.

Dr Mbi is a graduate from the University of Botswana School Of Medicine has worked in the COVID-19 team for two weeks during the month of March at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching hospital; a quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients. Sharing his COVID-19 experience, he said the first encounter with a suspect or confirmed case of Coronavirus is not easy to handle. "It takes proper planning before engaging with a patient," he said.

Despite the training and experience of working with patients of different ailments, Dr Mbi explained that his first encounter with a confirmed case of COVID-19 brought mixed emotions. "Even though the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is generally warm, on that day I felt extreme heat from the inside resulting in moist covering my goggles, thereby, obstructing my view.

I said to myself, Dr Mbi you are not in the right form of mind, you need to calm down, or else you will scare the patient," he said.

Dr Mbi confirmed that during his two weeks tenure at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital, most of the suspect and confirmed cases of COVID-19 that he met were young people and therefore making it easier for them to understand what they were going through.

"I must confirm that patients with non-communicable diseases experience serious health complications and even have serious signs such as difficulty in breathing and in speech, severe headache and high body temperature, among others symptoms and they take longer to recover," said Dr Mbi.

His appeal to the public is to desist from risky behaviour like gatherings and any other activities in violations of precautions in place such as social distancing and wearing of face masks. "I was shocked recently by a recent incident where some residents of Mogoditshane were seen playing social football, violating regulations of social distance and they were not even putting on face masks," said Dr Mbi.

He appealed to parents to guide their children accordingly and encourage them to abide by the laid down precautions to effectively deal with the pandemic.

Dr George emphasised on care for patients and preventing the spread of the virus as a focus for front liners. "At all times, while working with patients, health workers tread carefully as they are cautious not to spread the virus," he said.

Dr George said worldwide, front-liners feared for their health and that of their families as numbers of those positive and dying from COVID-19 continued to grow.

"So far around 2000 health workers succumbed to the pandemic, and there is a lot of anxiety among health workers.

The possibility for one of us getting the virus is high, we attend to a patient without knowing their status. We even fear for the lives of our family members," he said.

Dr George also revealed that most of their patients did not show any signs despite testing positive for coronavirus.

He said after completing his two-week shift at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital in May, he then went into a two weeks quarantine after which he underwent a COVID-19 test.

"Front liners stay in quarantine and miss the comfort of family and friends. We only engaged with our family members and friends through telephone," he said.

Despite putting on PPE, Dr George said it was risky working with COVID-19 patients as social distancing was not an option. "When attending to patients, we do not practice social distancing and we have to fully cover ourselves with protective clothing," he said.

Dr George also appealed to members of the public to observe protocols in place like social distancing, wearing of face masks and washing hands with water and soap.

He said a country like Taiwan, even though sharing borders with China where the virus started and with most of its citizens commuting to China daily for work had recorded minimal cases of positive coronavirus cases.

He said to date Taiwan had recorded 474 positive COVID-19 cases.

"They observe the measures that we are practicing here, and I believe they are somehow committed. We are in the current situation because of our behaviour," he said.

Meanwhile, Ms Ramanankane also concurred that infection prevention and control were primary to fighting the pandemic.

She said as health workers, they must first focus on the mental health of COVID-19 suspect in order for them to accept their results once testing positive.

She noted that patients often got affected emotionally as some of the information they came across was misleading.

Just like normal human beings, Ms Ramanankane said front liners had emotional feelings, and therefore their fears were raised as they engaged with COVID-19 patients.

"We are overwhelmed by the fear of spreading the virus," she added.

Ms Ramanankane explained that she was roped in at the initial stages when the first cases were reported.

"When pressurised by emotions, we confide in each other at work, share our challenges and help one other pass through what they are faced with," she said.

Source : BOPA

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