As the world begins to shut down in an attempt to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, GPs and all types of medical professionals have been on the frontline of this global battle.
The situation in Malta is no different – Maltese healthcare workers have been facing the coronavirus head on with what tools and information they have.
Lovin Malta spoke to one healthcare professional anonymously to see how she’s been coping, what the worst parts of this global pandemic are for her and her colleagues and what she expects in the near future.
Here are her words.
I’ve been in healthcare for ten years and although we have had our trials, I don’t think there has been a threat as large as COVID-19 to shake us to our core.
Personally, I am struck mostly by the emptiness of the hospital. An Italian doctor had said this and currently, I feel like I relate to it.
It’s like the calm before the storm, and no one knows what the magnitude will be like.
I must admit that I was not taking this thing very seriously; I think I became most concerned when I saw a picture of the state of the critical care units in Italy that I became most concerned.
There’s a general tension in the hospital.
Although we have a particularly light workload at the moment what with elective surgeries being cancelled and non-essential appointments being postponed, patients being transferred to other hospitals and emptying as many beds possible – we all know what it is in preparation for.
People are concerned about getting sick themselves or having to remain at the hospital because the workload will simply be too high.
“The main goal right now is to prepare the staff for the possibility of having to care solely for COVID-19 patients”
There are a lot of unanswered questions right now which keep us awake at night. However, the camaraderie that I can sense between us is far higher.
There’s an unspoken brother and sisterhood between people who work in healthcare and it is at times like these that this is strengthened. All our projects have been pushed back indefinitely, including mine, and the main goal right now is to prepare the staff for the possibility of having to care solely for COVID-19 patients.
Wards are being converted to cater for such patients, everyone currently involved is being briefed… I think we’re ready for an increase in patients, but we can only do this with the help of the public that avoids crowded places, to slow down transmission.
I think it really hit home when I witnessed the complete purge of lecture rooms and libraries where we used to study to become healthcare workers.
These areas are being used to store extra beds just in case patients need to be put into ward corridors; I never thought I would see the day when the infamous ‘korsiji’ would return.
However extraordinary measures are being taken to expand our capacity, with good reason.
Men are shaving their beards to fit their masks properly, we have changes of clothes in our cars waiting for us just in case. It’s an incredibly surreal thing to form a part of.
The scariest moment for me was not really in the hospital.
Seeing people queue up and gather in crowds at major supermarkets makes my stomach turn.
While I can empathise with people stockpiling, I cannot stress enough the importance of social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19.
I am also afraid for people with pre-existing mental health conditions.
I read a post about parents being prescribed anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication out of fear for their children.
I cannot imagine the repercussions on the mental health department if this escalates further, and my heart really does go out to the people in pain right now. I wish there was something I could say to help ease their pain.
On the other hand, I am hopeful because it seems to me that the country has initiated its own form of semi-lockdown.
While the repercussions of a lockdown are also absolutely terrifying, I am hopeful that these next couple of weeks will reveal a slow transmission of the virus that will allow for the hospital to work diligently.
The most recent escalation of mandatory quarantine as well as the stellar work being done by the police force to enforce such regulations has made me more hopeful.
The public as a whole has been very grateful to the health department for the work that we are doing.
I would like to extend my gratitude to the entire health department, most especially the highly experienced staff at the infectious disease unit who have been dealing with infectious diseases silently for many years; the A&E staff for being the literal frontliners and isolating such patients as quickly as possible, ITU who are ready to launch their pandemic plan at any given moment, as well as other wards who have been training hard and preparing to care for COVID-19 patients at a moment’s whim.
This has been going on for weeks since before the first COVID-19 patient was admitted to Mater Dei, without the public’s knowledge.
Professor Charmaine Gauci, a queen in her own right has been working with her super team at the Public Health Directorate for weeks, and has shown immense strength under so much pressure; she is a person I have always admired, even more so in light of this threat.
The health minister Hon. Chris Fearne has also stepped up; I can only imagine how hard it is for the governing body to strike a balance between the direct public safety as well as the long term repercussions this pandemic will have on our community.
The team is much larger than the ones working in hospital though, as we would not be able to do what we’re doing without the immensely important work being done by healthcare workers in the community.
Pharmacists in the community are doing their best to curb transmission; it must be very difficult for one to remind the importance of social distancing with every new client.
GPs, also at high risk, are stocking up on personal protective equipment in the hope of being able to treat whoever needs to be. It’s a community I am proud to form a part of.
We’re going to beat this. Kuraġġ.
Finally, I would like to appeal to the public to avoid crowds, even if they are in outdoor spaces.
It is not only incredibly frustrating to see people undoing the great work that is being done on our end by filling playgrounds and supermarkets, but it is also incredibly dangerous.
Please follow the standard infection control precautions and stay safe for these next few days so that maybe we can avoid the impending tragedy and lockdown that is surely going to descend on us if we don’t all stick together.
Thank you for the kind words and messages of support, and thank you for all the sacrifices you’ve been making; we’re going to be OK if we all stick together from afar.