Scenes on the frontline
The following is a journal extract describing the scenes:
This was the busiest weekend of the pandemic for me so far. It came, predictably, a few weeks following household mixing over Christmas. Our hospital had over 500 people with COVID-19. Over 40 had been admitted in the preceding 24 hours. Twenty-two were so sick they needed review by the intensive care team.
I was on call for two infectious disease wards that had been converted into critical care areas offering . These areas are staffed by infection and respiratory specialists and are an adaptation to cope with COVID-19. Although they offer an enhanced level of care with specialist CPAP service, the staffing levels are much lower than ICU and the shifts intense.
The morning started badly with a 44-year-old man collapsing unresponsive on the floor. Simultaneously, a confused older man and a man with learning difficulties in his 30s were pulling their CPAP masks off causing their oxygen levels to drop to dangerously low levels. This set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
Throughout the day, across the two wards, I was moving constantly from patient to patient as people deteriorated. Two younger people in their 30s needed to be intubated and go to intensive care. After being cleaned, their beds and rooms were immediately taken by more sick people who needed review.
The team worked tirelessly that day to keep everyone on the ward safe. Not to mention the myriad calls received and made to update people’s relatives and loved ones.
It was impossible to do all we would have wanted to for everyone and for their relatives waiting at home and unable to visit the hospital due to COVID-19.
Across our two wards, about a third of our patients had family members admitted elsewhere in the hospital with COVID-19. These were husbands, wives, sisters, a heavily pregnant daughter. Organising wheelchairs, portable oxygen and staff time for family members to safely see each other, getting translators, face-timing loved ones, and picking people up were small things that mattered.
It felt like juggling. Constant juggling. And it was hard. Too hard.
And yet, despite the challenges, it was also a weekend full of compassion. Full of compassionate individuals and actions. Nurses, healthcare assistants, cleaners, porters, junior doctors, radiographers – we all somehow found time to give every patient attention and kindness.
This also raises individual issues around the prevention, treatment, and care we offer to people with COVID-19. Is a compassionate approach to COVID-19 – and to any other illness for that matter – even possible within our understaffed, resource-constrained health system? And will that system show compassion not only to those for whom it cares but also the carers who work within it?
A mortal betrayal
In a survey by the British Medical Association, of black, Asian and minority ethnic doctors reported feeling fully protected from the risk of coronavirus infection compared to nearly two-thirds of white doctors. Even more tellingly, one third said they had either not been risk-assessed at all for the virus or that a previous assessment needed updating.
As the third wave abates, the country emerges from lockdown and healthcare workers like us come up for air, we can start to reflect on what care for people with COVID-19 and their carers might look like beyond 2021. It has to be better than it has been so far.
Original article here: https://theconversation.com/covid-19-2020-was-horrendous-for-health-workers-early-2021-was-even-worse-159503