Name of health worker: Nabakooza Jane
Occupation: Assistant Nursing Officer
Hoima Regional Referral Hospital
Engaging patients in their nursing care to deal with the COVID-19 Treatment Unit workload at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first patients came when they were very worried about their lives and hence they were cooperative. As time went on, the next groups of patients were a bit not cooperative saying they don’t believe they have COVID19 since most of them were asymptomatic. They asked for a special diet, they wanted to chat with each other and smoke which we disagreed upon making it difficult to stay with them in peace. On some occasions, male and female members of one family who tested positive would have to be separated to go to their respective wards and this did not settle well among the married and asymptomatic patients.
Among the many measures that the government had put in place to stop the spread of COVID19, was restricting both private and public means of transport. Since most of our fellow health workers used public means, it was difficult for us to get to the hospital because we did not have stickers for identification. I had to improvise with one of my uniforms as my ticket to use a motorcycle (boda boda) and move with my work identity card to avoid being beaten by the law enforcers. Though it was not right to move around in our nurses’ uniform outside of the hospital.
On many occasions, attending to my duties at the COVID-19 Treatment Unit (CTU) was quite challenging because I would have to walk 3kms to and from where I stay. Exhaustion and fatigue became my daily companion and this affected my performance since I always reached the hospital very tired and immediately, I would start thinking of how I would go back home.
As the lockdown was eased, I felt a little relief not knowing that the cases were going to increase. To make matter worse as COVID19 cases continued rising, the number of nurses on duty was reduced to one nurse per shift (from 0800-1800hours) for five days every week. This was very exhausting since the equipment, for example, thermometers and blood pressure (BP) machines were limited compared to the number of COVID patients in the unit. This increased our workload as one had to disinfect one item each time it had to be used, from one patient to another.
Since I had no powers to increase the number of nurses. I improvised by creating a very good rapport with my patients at the CTU. I talked and requested them to inform me of any emergency in the red zone, and some could help me in serving themselves food once I brought it into the Red Zone. I also taught them to take parameters for example their temperature, BP every four hours and inform me on the phone so as to reduce my workload. My recommendation is for the Ministry of Health to have a national team of health workers to plan for managing of new and existing conditions with emphasis on both health workers and patients because for this pandemic, the emphasis has been majorly on patients.
Additionally, one undesirable day I recall was when discharge samples taken off from a specific cohort were returned and some patients were positive thus not going home which brought chaos. And, sometimes, when results for a deceased suspect were delayed, it became hard to convince the grieving family of the cause of death of their beloved.
However, for the discharged patient, the psychosocial team could escort and reinstate the patient back to his/her family and community at large. And, this day of this discharge was always filled with joy for both the health workers and the patient(s).