Name of health worker: Nabaasa Angella
Occupation: Mental Health Nurse
Hoima Regional Referral Hospital
A mental health nurse recollection of her short-lived rotation in the COVID-19 Treatment Unit
As a psychosocial personnel in the COVID-19 Treatment Unit (CTU), I was expected to offer psychosocial support. I did a rotation in the CTU when a colleague from the mental health unit requested that I stand in for her for 8 days while she went into the field to follow up on a few COVID19 cases. However, the unpleasant stories I had been hearing from the CTU made me scared to go there at first but I did go with encouragement.
The patients were so many and uncooperative partly because of poor welfare, delayed results and lack of insight. We handled this situation with these patients by identifying and contacting the most stubborn of them in the ward through phone calls. There was also continuous counselling and infection prevention and control (IPC).
Managing COVID19 patients for the 3 days I was there was heartbreaking for me, especially the situation where mothers with very young children were admitted in a non-child friendly space.
For example, there was also a mother who was taking care of her unconscious husband and she had a 5-months old baby but with no provision for basics from the hospital. I was heartbroken and I could not stand the CTU with its patient welfare policies.
I did not stay for the days agreed upon with my colleague. And, honestly, I don’t even wish to ever work there. Though, the whole experience made me realize the importance of life. I learned to respect COVID-19 frontline workers because they go through a lot with the larger numbers of patients for example, my colleague was breastfeeding but she could sacrifice an entire day to work. These long working hours with no meals or paid risk allowances and inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE). To address the lack of meals, we brought our own from home.
My recommendation is for the government to pay staff risk allowances and at least provide a snack for those working in the CTUs. There should also be a full-time psychologist to attend to the hospital staff.