We are the last line of defence
“Everyone keeps saying we’re the front line. We’re not. We’re pretty much the last line of defence.”
Dr Laurica Bailey, Emergency Medicine Medical Officer at New Somerset Hospital, expressed how many front-line workers feel – they are exhausted, they are sad, they are emotionally drained, and now they are appealing to everyone to help them, to help others.
While everyone else were able to spend some time with the close family and celebrate Christmas, these Heroes continue to fight the battle against COVID-19 saving lives of those close to us.
Over the past few weeks, the number of new COVID-19 infections have risen sharply, many more people required hospitalisation and sadly, many families have lost a loved one.
There is established community transmission again in the Western Cape, and from the experience of the first wave, we have seen that once this is the case, we also experience a higher number of our health care workers becoming infected. Infections in health care workers have far reaching implications as staff who are sick must isolate. Less staff can report for duty, less staff are available to attend to the sick, less staff to save lives.
To put this into perspective, on 22 December there were 761 Health Care Workers across 94 institutions infected with COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic 7 215 staff were forced to take COVID related leave which equates to 36 287 days – days when our staff could not render health services.
We need to protect them, so they can treat our mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends.
“COVID-19 is a desperate space. It’s a time when people are desperate,” said Dr Ricardo Titus who is the Supervisor at the Emergency Centre at False Bay Hospital. “I treated a young man with COVID-19 whose father came in. I placed my hand on his chest and his father placed his hands on mine. I felt the pain of all fathers who lost their sons, all fathers who could lose their sons, all sons who are lost to their fathers,” he remembers.
Prof Jackie Hoare works at the Dept of Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town also experiences this daily. “We’re taught to break bad news. But the way in which we experienced death at that time [in the first wave], and we’re experiencing now, is at a rate none of us were prepared for. We are tired and we do need your help. We can’t do this alone. It’s real. It’s happening again. Please help us,” she pleads.
Supporting Prof Hoare’s plea, Dr Bailey says “It starts at home, It starts with people wearing masks, social distancing, washing their hands, and protecting themselves – because we can’t do that for you.”
Everyone of us can help our health care workers. It is easy to protect ourselves and others:
- Always wear a mask when we go out
- Avoid crowded places, confined spaces with poor ventilation and close contact
- Stay home if sick and arrange a test – isolate while you wait for your results
- Be careful about sharing your “air space” by avoiding crowds where you cannot keep 1.5m distance
- Having people over? Limit the size of your get-together (more people = more risk) and Keep them short (longer = more risk)