Navigating a language barrier while managing a Congolese critically ill refugee patient

Navigating a language barrier while managing a Congolese critically ill refugee patient

Name of health worker: Kiiza Wandera William

Occupation: Nurse

Hoima Regional Referral Hospital

Navigating a language barrier while managing a Congolese critically ill refugee patient

It felt horrible, terrifying working in the COVID Treatment Unit (CTU) because of the unclear mode of spread of COVID19 and its scaring global fatality and the aggression from newly diagnosed patients. Some of these patients lacked a clear understanding of the diagnosis thus would refuse to take drugs given.

And, our ability to avail nursing care was greatly affected by the delay in payment of weekly risk allowances and working on empty stomachs because meals were not provided which significantly affected our output. Probably, if the hospital administrators had meetings with us to resolve the untimely pay of the risk allowance. Then, we the health workers would carry already prepared food from home and water.

 In addition, there was a lack of equipment to manage critically ill COVID19 patients and the language barrier made communication with these patients very difficult, especially taking down their history.

A case in point is of a referred patient in a critical condition and respiratory distress from Kyangwali Health Centre IV. The patient had been rejected by the Outpatient department because of fear that he might have COVID19. However, on admission to the CTU, there were no equipment for critical care management.

 We had to improvise by borrowing equipment for monitoring vital signs (oxygen, temperature, pulse and blood pressure), glucometers from different departments because the patient was deteriorating with sugar levels at 3.4mmls. We were unsure if this patient was positive for virus or not so we ended up managing him clinically without COVID19 results.

 This patient was from Congo and spoke lugegere and the language barrier was unsettling for the clinical management team. It was a challenge to manage this patient because of the language barrier. We were stuck with the relatives of the patient in the CTU who were getting anxious all the time. Unfortunately, the patient died later on.   

I do believe that there should be continuous health education of newly diagnosed patients on COVID19. And, the hospital needs to employ language interpreters to help with the language barrier. In addition, the hospital administrators should have continuous meetings involve stakeholders from the Ministry of Health like the Permanent Secretary, NGOs and politicians for hospital equipment to be purchased.