After providing months of care for COVID-19 patients, the association of nurses in Seychelles says its members are exhausted from long, intense hours, and that their physical and mental wellbeing must be made a priority.
Rosie Bistoquet, the chair of the Nurses Association of the Republic of Seychelles (NARS), told SNA this week that the caregivers, especially nurses who are entrusted with the 24-hour care, have been working nonstop since March.
"The same nurse who opened the centre is the same nurse working at the centre in January 2021. They need to be rotated. Have two groups. One group will work in continuum and a group with COVID. Let them refresh, breathe for a while, let them have some fresh air. Exhaustion is a real issue," said the nurse.
Bistoquet said that some sort of arrangement should be made to relieve these workers, as she said the more tired and stressed they are, the more likely they will be to make mistakes.
A dedicated space at each COVID-19 centre for health workers to relax and rejuvenate during their breaks or in between shifts is something NARS is also calling for. "It is important for them to have such places during their breaks," said Bistoquet.
A centre where nurses can go to get counselling, spend time without pressures of the family, socialize with other nurses or simply to get pampered is also something the association feel is much needed. This is crucial now that the Kenyan health workers, who came to assist the island nation in April last year, left in November.
According to Bistoquet, the association undertook a mapping exercise early last year and found that there are over 800 registered nurses in Seychelles. They include both Seychellois and foreigners working with the Seychelles Ministry of Health, private clinics, or who are employed in other positions in both the public and private sectors or those who have retired.
"Those we can use them for psychosocial support as well for the continuum of care, for instance, retired midwives can take care of pregnant women consultations and follow-ups of newborn such as weighing," said Bistoquet, adding that this will allow other nurses to do other tasks directly related to COVID - 19.
The nurse explained that the association had also worked on a deployment plan and is ready to recruit these nurses not to be front liners but they can be redeployed correctly to assist with other nursing duties at health centres, on the wards or in the community.
A nurse working at the Isolation and Treatment Center at the Family Hospital at Perseverance said that they are overwhelmed and things at the centre are very hectic. Sylvie Sinon whom SNA spoke to on Wednesday as she prepared herself for a third night shift in a row said that she was physically and mentally drained.
Sinon said that nurses are stretched now that there are more quarantine and treatment centres compared to when the country had the first wave. "There is so much to do. This morning I finished my shift at 10 instead of 8 am. There is so much to do," said Sinon.
Sinon added that even though she can cope with the physical stress she needs psychosocial first aid. "I also feel that we should be shown appreciation for all that the little of us are doing. For instance, throughout the festive season, we did not get any words of encouragement and not even a token."
But despite this, and the fact that 22 health care workers are currently infected with COVID -19 and several more currently in quarantine, Sinon said they are focused and determined to continue to care for their patients.
Josapha Jouanneau - doctor - has also been working in the quarantine facilities since the outbreak of the pandemic. Jouanneau said that with the surge of community transmissions, he is also feeling stressed and burn out but with the current situation all ' hands on deck' are needed. The doctor who has been practising since 2012, said that he has not taken leave for two years now. " Mentally it is stressful, it is a bit draining but I guess you must look within yourself to get the courage to continue," the doctor added that there is a hotline available which they can assess support from a psychologist.
Jouanneau told SNA that the work that the nurses are doing is highly valued and crucial as they are the 24 hours critical eye, ears and hands for doctors. "They are my right hand and without them, it would not be possible."
The nurses association has also said that the health authority must be mindful of health risk conditions that some nurses have, Bistoquet's appeal comes after a nurse working in one quarantine facility passed away, not from COVID-19 but from a previous health condition.
"At this day and age, we need more people," said the chair adding that the people willing to come and help but they must be covered with an insurance policy.
Bistoquet who is currently a member of the National Assembly in Seychelles said that she has also written to the ministry of health offering her assistance with the vaccination rollout.
The association is appealing for support and donations for the health care workers. "I know businesses are facing hard times, but we will be grateful donations of anything, fruits, juices, anything that will support and show them our appreciation," concluded Bistoquet.