Healthcare workers burning out from Covid-19 burden

KZN health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has condemned the rape of a nurse at one of the province's hospitals on Sunday.
KZN health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has condemned the rape of a nurse at one of the province's hospitals on Sunday.
Image: 123RF/Yuriy Klochan

Healthcare workers are suffering mental health strain, depression and heightened anxiety brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Laeeka Philander, who works in the Covid-19 high-care unit at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, said he had suffered emotional trauma from treating Covid-19 patients.

“I literally cried on my way home – to work, I cried … People would die in front of you then you must just be okay. And then the next person comes in that same bed, but you haven’t even mourned that previous patient yet. It was scary. It was beyond scary,” he said.

World Mental Health Day was celebrated on Tuesday, with a focus on the affect of the pandemic on healthcare workers.

Lee-Shay Chindikano, a porter, started working at the hospital just before the pandemic and describes the anxiety she feels daily when wheeling the sickest patients to the Covid-19 high-care unit and ICU.

“We don’t know what happens next. We don’t know if this patient is going to make it. We don’t know if we are taking this virus home with us. We don’t know if we are even going to see tomorrow,” Chindikano said.

While there are internal measures in place to support healthcare workers in the Western Cape, they have made a call to the public to help and support them through this challenging time.

When asked how the public could help, a call to vaccinate was the most popular.

“The thing we can do to protect ourselves and everybody else is to for everybody to get vaccinated so we can eradicate this pandemic,” said Rajendra Laljith, EMS paramedic and shift leader.

According to the World Health Organisation, the pandemic has had a considerable impact on people’s mental health across the globe.  Close to a billion people have a mental disorder and anyone, anywhere, can be affected. Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from depression.

With one in every 100 deaths a suicide, it is the fourth leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 globally.

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