CoVid Chronicles: An Essential Worker’s Perspective

Here’s part 2 of my Covid-19 chronicles. Catch part 1 here.

I completed medical school last June so I’ve been a doctor in a Jamaican public hospital for 9 months now and counting. During that time I’ve seen a lot and gained a world of experience. When this current strain of coronavirus emerged, it sounded surreal BUT we all knew it was a matter of time before our country and region would be affected too given how highly virulent this pathogen is and how closely connected our world has become through the 21st century’s ease of travel. Subsequently, Jamaica recorded its first case on March 10. Every day since, or rather every hour, there’s something new. One minute it’s a public attraction closing its doors, the next it’s a restaurant, a factory, the schools, offices, then finally the country’s airports on March 21. At the time of publishing this post, the number of confirmed cases is at 26 and our nation has recorded 1 death.

access building business care

My hospital has cancelled most outpatient clinics but a few like the antenatal and postnatal clinics have to continue for obvious reasons. Jamaicans have a habit of coming to hospital for trivial reasons such as an insignificant rash (we’re alarmingly preoccupied with rashes, while choosing to present late for serious, life-threatening and potentially fatal conditions, go figure). The Ministry of Health & Wellness through the media has strongly encouraged people with those complaints to stay home, but this plea has fallen on deaf ears. Elective surgeries have been postponed indefinitely and visiting hours have been curtailed to one visitor per patient and to only an hour each day but again, visitors haven’t been compliant. Jamaicans are truly an unruly bunch. We have a dedicated isolation ward for suspected and confirmed cases at my hospital, and there has been the creation of several protocols and guides, even if they’re still in the developmental stages and not yet released to the front-line staff which needs it. Some training sessions have been conducted even if the times have been inconvenient for many who weren’t able to leave their posts to access the training, and generally there has been a tangible change in the atmosphere and culture of the hospital.

Personal protective equipment (PPEs) have to be hidden with only select staff being told where to find it on a need-to-know basis because our stocks have been ravaged repeatedly by the vermin among us who sell PPEs on the black market to people who don’t even need it, but everyone wants gloves and masks for a false sense of security in these streets. Plus, even hospital staff with zero patient interaction demand masks, further depleting our stash. We still have water lock-offs at my hospital despite the ministry’s plea for us to wash our hands more frequently but at least we have alcohol and hand sanitizer. Taxi drivers refuse to pick up nurses in their uniform and several restaurants have closed or refuse to deliver food to the hospital out of fear. We have fewer patients (except on the maternity ward and I’ll save my theories as to why) but still, no one really wants to be there– neither staff nor patient.

You never know if and when you’re going to get in contact with an infected patient. Some of us have comorbidities which make us vulnerable or we have relatives at home who are, and we can’t bear the thought of knowing we could lose a loved one from an illness we inadvertently bring home. A lot of us choose to self-isolate after work as a result which isn’t really the best thing to do for our mental health. There’s just this palpable air of anxiety and panic through the wards and corridors at work from both staff and patients and relatives alike, and I hate it. What a time to be a doctor.

person holding sign

Here are some other things I’ve come to realize in my weeks of pondering this crisis which is growing larger than life each day:

1) Given that the disease is transmitted airborne via infectious droplets, it’s actually too easy to contract this disease. Also, it lives on the common every day surfaces we touch as we go about our daily lives for up to 72 hours– doorknobs, handles, railings, ATM buttons, light switches etc. We simply can’t sanitize every single surface we come in contact with often enough. Surfaces which can transmit diseases are known as fomites and even the most innocent-looking commonly used devices like our cellphones can become fomites. Germ-o-phobes may feel happy knowing that they had been on to something from long before corona, but it’s literally impossible to keep up with sanitizing every single thing we touch. That means once you interact with even a single human being or go out into the outside world, which is unavoidable for us as we continue our essential duties, we’re at risk.

2) Not everyone who is feeling ill will stay at home, putting so many of us at risk of contracting the virus. Also, the 2 week incubation period means people can be infected from common every day errands like getting groceries at the supermarket and don’t even know it, thus going around and infecting other people before showing signs and symptoms.

3) The tests available, not just in Jamaica but in most countries worldwide, are in limited supply which means there has to be a criteria for determining who to test. We only test people who are symptomatic and who we deem to have had significant exposure risk which means there may be lots more infected people than the statistics say. Many may still be asymptomatic or show very mild symptoms, therefore not presenting or qualifying for testing meanwhile infecting other more susceptible individuals.

face masks on white background

4) The stark reality is the majority of personal protective equipment (PPEs) being made available to a lot of people on the front-lines is either unsuitable or inadequate. Surgical masks and gowns don’t adequately prevent one from contracting an airborne disease, and N-95 masks and haz-mat suits are limited, must be well-fitted, are actually very hot and uncomfortable for the user and proper donning and duffing of appropriate gear must be taught. That means a lot of people are either walking around with a false sense of security thinking that any PPE they get their hands on can actually give them protection, and hence tend to get lax with handwashing, making them more likely to either contract or transfer to virus particles to other people.

5) Patients don’t walk into hospitals with a diagnosis on their foreheads. The only way we can determine if you require coronavirus testing is by actually interviewing the patient, which if conducted while not properly attired, puts that worker plus his or her relatives at risk, even if immediately placed into quarantine. Not every patient will do the astute thing of staying home and calling the Ministry’s hotline or hospital for care.

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6) There may come a time where enough health care workers are exposed that too many of us will be in quarantine, depriving the already understaffed sector of a labour force to fight this thing.

Last but not least,

7) Essential workers are so much more than just doctors and nurses.

Here’s a list of the other essential workers and people providing an essential service during this trying time while many of you have the option of social distancing and isolation. Keep them in your prayers. It’s not easy to continue going about business as usual while everyone else gets to work from home, spend more time with their families at home and rest.

  • Patient care assistants
  • Medical technologists and laboratory staff
  • Orderlies
  • Radiographers
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Other hospital staff such as those who work at maintenance, laundry, dietary, medical records and administration.
  • Policemen
  • Firemen
  • Soldiers
  • Ambulance drivers
  • Taxi and bus drivers
  • Garbage collectors
  • Janitors at places providing essential service
  • Some government staff such as at the Ministry of Health.
  • People who work in wholesales, supermarkets, the retail and shipping industry, some fast food chains and restaurants, and of course truckers and delivery men from these companies.
  • People who work at the electricity, telecommunications and water companies.
  • Reporters and journalists.

For everyone playing their part in this crisis, I salute you. My prayers also go out to everyone whose livelihood has been or will be affected by this global shutdown.

Lastly, keep those memes coming. Staying cheerful is how we shall beat this thing. Worry makes us immunocompromised, and we can’t afford to have that right now.

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The memers have no chill πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

This post is a day late (I usually publish on Thursdays) but life happens.

Stay safe and walk good! ‘Til next time✌🏽.

Read next: Protecting your mental health during quarantine.


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Published by

Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle

Adventures from Elle is a blog for locals & visitors who want to experience the best of Jamaica, one adventure at a time. Also a budget travel blog, Adventures from Elle is written by Rochelle Knight, a junior doctor who began this blog as a student & wants to see the world, starting with her own country. She frequents off-the-beaten-path waterfalls, beaches and places with interesting history. Join her in Jamaica!

23 thoughts on “CoVid Chronicles: An Essential Worker’s Perspective

  1. “We simply can’t sanitize every single surface we come in contact with often enough.”

    I’ve been trying to explain this to people. We should definitely still do our best, but it’s just not possible to sanitize every single thing every single time.

    I’ve also had a post sitting in my drafts about front line professionals that don’t get enough credit. Health care is definitely the set I worry about most, but it’s amazing how people forget the biohazard cleaners/janitorial, security guards and retail workers because they aren’t flaunting college degrees.

    Stay safe and stay sane!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know right. There are so many unsung heroes working in the health care sector and without them, we really couldn’t function. I’m very grateful for the various members of the team, college degree or not.

      Thanks dearie! Certainly trying my best. ❀ Stay safe up there too. The USA sounds crazy right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I stay home 6 days a week and put grocery runs and everything else into 1 day per week. I just get what I need and head straight home.

      New York is taking the hardest hit right now. It’s not surprising considering that people live on top of each other in tiny spaces in NYC. I think they had 50,000 cases the last time I checked. Just a week or so before, they had 7,000.

      Like

    3. I agree those unsung heroes don’t get enough recognition. The more I watch the news is the more the media tend to leave out everyone who is not on the front lines. We need to be the voice of those whose voices cannot be heard, those who are just as important in getting the supplies to the doctors, nurses, and all those other front line workers. Everyone who works in a hospital, clinic, police station, fire station, a delivery person of any kind, and so many more who are still going out into the world to support those front line workers should be commended. Let us be their voice…we appreciate every one of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Over here, drugs like Chloroquine are realising acute shortage and it’s affecting people that really need them like Lupus patients. Sad fact is it hasn’t really been proven to be a cure and many buyers haven’t even been diagnosed yet!
    It’s sad the somewhat unfair treatment medics are receiving from Taxi drivers and I do hope this phase passes soon enough.
    How’s the compliance with the social distancing order in Jamaica because in Nigeria it’s something else. Some persons think it’s a disease for rich people and they still going about trading and attending religious programs all over the place.
    I just hope they take this more seriously because we’ve seen a steady rise of cases within days!
    Yesterday it was 70, today’s it’s 86 already.
    God help us.

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    1. Oh wow, Jamaicans aren’t the most compliant either but our police is really trying their best to enforce the law. I think the lack of compliance is what will make this disease get out of control in Jamaica too. Many people still believe black people can’t get the virus or that home remedies with garlic, ginger, sour oranges and some herbs can prevent or cure it.

      It’s really sad hearing about the chloroquine in Nigeria. 😦 Is it available without prescription or are they getting their hands on it through the black market? Praying for your country as well. Jamaica is now at 30 confirmed cases btw. Given our population is just under 3 million.

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  3. Hi Rochelle an excellent post. You could not have articulated all your concerns any better. We all have our part to play in this public health crisis. Some people not taking the warnings seriously. The harsh reality is there will be loss of life. I can relate to your anxiety as I am a specialist physician. Our offices are still open as referring doctors rely on us for imaging. Please stay safe everyone. The situation is extremely serious.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s truly a serious situation. I wish Jamaicans took it more seriously, at least in Mandeville. The streets are still so full. All that commuting can’t be essential. Kingston seems to be taking it more seriously though from the pictures I’ve seen in the media.

      Thank you so much for reading & commenting Cary. I appreciate your kind words too. πŸ™‚ Stay safe!

      Like

  4. hey rochelle
    well i work as a disability carer so we too are to keep on going whilst so much is closed down. Basically work, home or the occasional trip to the supermarket. And PPE here is also very hard to get and we need it. Unfortunately whilst hospitals, surgeries and nursing homes get the bulk of the necessities, individual houses, of which there are hundreds across the state, for disability, we are left to source our own PPE. it’s been stressful. and then supermarket limits are applied here – two loaves of bread! For a house of ten. Because others are hoarding.And people are stocking up on hand sanitisers, toilet paper, masks and then selling them for ridiculous prices. its shameful

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. It’s very shameful! We have quite a bit of price gouging here as well, but thankfully toilet paper is still available on our shelves– just no hand sanitizer, Lysol and other cleaning agents. Even vitamin C is in short supply. The limits are ridiculous though sigh, but some bad apples (the hoarders) spoiled it for the bunch. I hope you remain safe and healthy through this crisis as you continue carrying out your work. All the very best and I look fwd to reading your article on the state of other covid-stricken countries. Take care!

      Like

  5. Great post. I too am a physician working on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic. Despite being in a less affected region, the anxiety is palpable and mentally exhausting. PPE access is also a major point of contention here. Hope you are getting adequate support from your colleagues and hospital administration. Keep well!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you understand how exhausting the anxiety is. I’m so drained by it. It’s all everyone is talking about, and everyday there’s something new. Everyone is doing their best to be supportive though so that’s good news. Stay safe and continue being a hero of sorts during this pandemic, even if you aren’t too pleased about it either.

      Liked by 1 person

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