As the rate of the COVID-19 infection continues to rise in South Africa , healthcare workers continue to face multiple challenges. Sister Frances Moteka shares her personal experiences working in Johannesburg COVID-19 quarantine sites, and the importance of complying with the national lockdown regulations.
How did you feel when you were hired to work within a quarantine site, considering the current challenges and fears surrounding the virus ?
- I was excited to venture into something different as a versatile nurse who has worked in different nursing disciplines, namely; theatre, ICU, Aviation medicine, education and management. I had to do infection prevention and control research in order to pass 3rd year in nursing, so my excitement was based on being able to put my IPC research into practice and be able to assist in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
What would you say is the most challenging thing about working in a quarantine site?
- Difficult, impossible, rude & abusive patients. Before patients arrive on-site, they are well aware of having to stay in quarantine for a period of 14 days, however some expect us to amend the rules and regulations to suit them. When they do not receive the treatment they expect, they slander us with verbal words and call us all sorts of names.
How has your hospital work experience helped you in working in quarantine? Would you say it is more challenging?
- Having worked at the hospital, you know that the most important person is your patient. One has to carry out the key practices of being a good listener, being selfless and compassionate. Therefore, this was the application I had to apply at the site. The only difference would be that you have patients who are not bed-ridden. This becomes difficult at times, as you have patients who forget that they are supposed to follow protocol as stipulated by the government. Patients feel entitled, they are disrespectful and are very argumentative as compared to the hospital where patients are more respectful and humble.
What are some of the challenges that you as a healthcare worker experience within these sites? How do you overcome them?
- A quarantine job is difficult, but requires a person who is strong, firm, courageous and fearless and someone who stands their ground, yet at the same time you need to be loving, sympathetic and always go beyond the call of duty. Having to sleep with one eye open has also been a challenge, as you never know when you will get a 2 am call from a patient who is sick; or when you have an ambulance come in at 4 am returning a patient to site from the hospital – so basically having a 24/7 job.
How did you handle leaving your family at home and potentially putting them at risk when you came back?
- Well, it was slightly difficult knowing I’ll be away from home, however I must say we are a strong and resilient family. My family is understanding and know that I have to bring the bread home, and I guess what eases the difficulty is us communicating on a daily basis. As for putting them at risk, we know that I am responsible for protecting myself as they should too at home. I inform them when I do a test right before the 14 days of quarantine are over, and inform them of my results which gives them the green light to be able to pick me up. So yes, it is difficult to be apart and alone, however we are in this together.
As a healthcare worker, what is something you wish you could tell the citizens of South Africa about COVID-19 and the national lockdown?
- This pandemic is not a joke. We NEED to take this seriously and people should comply with the government regulations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us decrease the exponential curve together as government cannot do it on its own. Citizens of South Africa, stay home, wear your mask, wash your hands, practice cough etiquette and keep social distancing. Monitor yourself for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and if there’s a need, isolate yourself and contact your healthcare professional. Prevention is better than cure!