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COVID-19 fight Tales of frontline medical professionals

BY: Emmanuel Bruce
Mrs Abigail Brago Ofosuhene,Field Epidemiologist
Mrs Abigail Brago Ofosuhene,Field Epidemiologist

Since COVID-19 hit the shores of Ghana in the middle of March, when the country recorded its first two cases, the lives of Ghanaians have been changed drastically even as the cases keep increasing.

In the midst of this pandemic, a lot of discussions have been held, ranging from statistics such as the infection rate, death rate and recovery rate; and also how well the nation has managed the pandemic.

However, one area that has received very little attention is what the many health workers who are at the forefront of this fight go through behind the scenes to ensure everyone is safe.

It is for this reason why the Springboard, Your Virtual University, a radio programme on Joy FM, used last week’s edition to celebrate the health workers who have been at the forefront and had some of them share their experiences.

The discussion was a sequel to last week’s programme, with the host, Rev. Albert Ocran, talking to a new set of health professionals to find out how the pandemic had affected their lives and that of their families.

How big an issue is COVID 19?
Speaking on the programme, Pediatric Cardiologist, Professor Nana-Akyaa Yao, said she had not experienced anything that had been such disruptive since she started her practice as a medical doctor.

She said the pandemic had disrupted work at the hospital and also reduced their manpower.

“With hospital work, one of the mainstays of our management is meeting together to discuss patients on a daily basis but now when the pandemic started all the meetings were cancelled and that has greatly affected us.”

“At the very beginning everybody was coming to work but we realised that it was not a good idea because if everybody gets exposed then the whole unit must shut down so we split into two teams and at a certain point three teams so that if one team gets infected the other can still work,” she stated.

She said this had reduced the manpower of the hospital and reduced the number of surgeries that they were able to perform.

“We were doing three surgeries a week but at some stage we were doing none at all due to COVID 19 but we are now doing one in a week.”

She said the pandemic had placed a huge demand and pressure on health workers across the world and Ghana had not been an exception.

Contact tracing
A field epidemiologist, Mrs Abigail Brago Ofosuhene, said their job was to collect various forms of information and used it to develop guidelines to slow the spread of the virus.

Sharing her experience of contact tracing, she said while some people had been cooperative and understood what exactly was going on, others had been very difficult in dealing with.

“Some will just hang up when you introduce yourself, some will give you wrong addresses, some are hostile to you and some of the addresses lead to dangerous locations,” she noted.

Recounting an incident, she said: “About two months ago we had a case, we called her and she gave the phone to someone. She was trying to throw us around so we gave her contact to BNI and they were able to pinpoint her location to us.”

“We went in there, I did an assessment and realised that home management was okay for her but then because of the earlier encounter we had with her, I decided to keep an eye on her. I went there one afternoon and her gate was locked and when I asked they said she had gone out for prayers.”

“So I asked around and we got in touch with the pastor. We had an ambulance ready and just when we had her we told her she was not safe for home management so we were sending her to the isolation centre,” she explained.

She said although a lot of awareness had been created about COVID 19, people’s attitude was the biggest challenge.

How COVID has affected her life
Mrs Ofosuhene pointed out that the pandemic had affected her life in so many ways as she was unable to eat when on the field, something which affected her diet and subsequently affected her blood count.

She said the other issue was fear, stating that “we are all out and there is this constant fear when you come into contact with patients.”

“Two months ago, I had a patient I was managing at home and she had just had a baby. She was rushed to the facility and was bleeding so I went to her and the cover on available was a small size so I couldn’t fit in.”

“I had just my cloth, face mask and my gloves but I looked at the woman and I couldn’t just watch her because I knew that moment it wasn’t the COVID that will kill her, but her present health condition so I had to go in and resuscitate her.”

“When I came out I knew I had done the wrong thing and breached protocol so I started asking myself: what if I’m infected? Will my immune system be strong enough to stand it? If I don’t make it who will take care of my kids? All these came playing in my head, but through it all the support system has been good and that is what has kept me going,” she recounted.

Role of pharmacists
Commenting on the role of pharmacists in the fight against COVID 19, a pharmacist, Ms Jennifer Boateng Kumah, said in the pharmaceutical area, COVID was a new thing and every medicine they used was new.

“We don’t know the short and long-term effect on the patient and so when it comes to pharmaceutical, all the team members on the management team relies on you for their drug information and it is the first time we are using it for COVID.”

“We don’t know much about COVID and we are trying the new medicines on our patients for the first time.”

“It has not been easy but this has got me reading a lot about the medications I give to our patients and back it with prayer, minced with faith. It becomes critical when the pharmacist needs to give an advice to the team on the choice of medicine and it has been very challenging,” she noted.