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New programme planned to help KZN health workers cope with trauma

The KwaZulu-Natal health department will roll out a programme to help health workers who have been exposed to trauma.
The KwaZulu-Natal health department will roll out a programme to help health workers who have been exposed to trauma.
Image: Brett Eloff

KwaZulu-Natal health workers who have been exposed to traumatic incidents will be given the opportunity to undergo "psychological debriefing in order to help them cope".

The provincial health department has already started conceptualising the programme that would strengthen its capacity to attend to the psychological needs of its doctors, nurses, paramedics, forensic pathology and other essential services staff who have been exposed to horrific incidents like loss of human life, and other grisly scenes.

Speaking at a departmental Women’s Month community outreach programme held at Madadeni Hospital at Amajuba District (Newcastle), MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the new structure, "which will boost the existing but under-resourced Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)", should be up and running in the next six months.

Simelane-Zulu spoke about a recent case at a women’s social gathering where two female doctors were lamenting how people like them were forced to “move on” very quickly after losing patients.

"One of them said, 'Someone comes into the facility with a stab wound. I try all I can to save this life, but I'm sometimes unable to because we know how life is. But, instead of getting an opportunity to be debriefed, I must go and treat another person with gunshot wounds.'

"She’s just experienced someone dying for the first time; she has not dealt with it in her own mind, but she must move on.

"But this is something that will stay with her for the rest of her life. What is worse is that as she leaves to treat another person, the sister or nurse left behind must go and tell the family that their loved one has passed on. What does that do to that health care worker? Do we have a programme as a department of assisting all these health workers to deal with these matters? Because these issues go to the heart. They affect us psychologically."

Simelane-Zulu has already begun discussions with the department's human resources management unit on how the programme would work.

"We must come up with a programme that assists our frontline health workers to deal with these situations. We’ve spoken to human resources. We’re going to launch the programme, and we are going to do it very soon.

"In that programme, we must have a psychologist, a clinician, a nurse... we can agree who else we add, but those are core in any facility, so that we’re able to deal with the psychological effects of what we face on a daily basis. We’re hoping to implement it in the next six months. We’ve even decided on where we’re going to launch it," she said.