At the Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital in Francistown recently, nurses and other health workers in one of the busy wards at the hospital, scurried for cover after they were warned not to access a ward because a patient who had succumbed to a respiratory related ailment was marked as a suspect of COVID-19.
Matters came to a head when information spread along the corridors of the state-owned hospital that the government will take over the burial processes of the young woman who had earlier given birth to a bouncing baby before she passed on.
Panic was further precipitated by the 48-hour period imposed by the government before the remains of the woman who hailed from Zwenshambe in the North East was buried at the Gerald Estate cemetery.
Health workers were gripped by fear, especially those who had accessed the ward where the deceased was admitted even though Francistown is yet to register a positive case of the coronavirus. Some of the nurses feared that they could have been exposed to the contagious virus that continues to spread like wild fire.
Equally, at the Princess Marina Hospital in the capital Gaborone, nurses got into panic mode after their colleague’s partner at a local clinic at Block 8 tested positive of the coronavirus. A sense of relief returned to Marina after Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Lemogang Kwape reported then that the nurse at the local referral hospital had tested negative. The panic-stricken health workers had feared that they could be infected.
Although this was not enough, Botswana’s Health Services director, Dr Malaki Tshipayagae was recently quoted by this publication as saying: “Nurses know procedures to follow to avoid transmission of the virus”.
Well, as if this was not enough, at a Francistown-based privately owned health facility, Tati River Clinic, its managing director and consultant physician, Dr Kgosidialwa Mompati related another story depicting how health workers are gripped by fear of contracting the virus. His employees ran helter-skelter when a woman whose child had presented with chest infection had claimed her child had coronavirus.
In the words of the medic, “there was pandemonium at the facility upon hearing that the child had coronavirus”.
This goes a long way into reflecting that health workers as part of those battling the disease in the frontline, live in incessant fear of contracting COVID-19, which could take steam out of their fighting spirits.
A serious fight awaits the health workers, as over and above their normal duties, they will be going all out to conduct random tests of a targeted 22,000 people across five districts of greater Gaborone, greater Francistown, Gantsi, Ngami and Chobe. Tests will be done at selected households at these districts starting from tomorrow (Monday).
In light of the nurses’ exposure to the danger of contracting the virus, president of Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) Obonolo Rahube said on Sunday that the government has guaranteed to provide two main essentials.
The BONU president gathers solace from the reality that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has agreed to ensure that through a psychosocial unit at the ministry, nurses will receive proper counselling.
Rahube indicated that as a union, they have impressed upon the government to procure personal protective equipment, “and government has since made an undertaking to provide such equipment”.
The trade unionist emphasised that as long as government commits to psychosocial counselling and provision of personal protective clothing, it will ensure the nurses are motivated to deliver.
He concurs that nurses are exposed to danger in line of their duties and now with the 22,000-targeted tests in the five districts, they will be exposed a lot. He also agrees that nurses are gripped by fear and panic and emphasised that it is real and not just imagined as elsewhere health workers had died and continue to die because of exposure.
Just recently, colleague Lebogang Mosikare was scared out of his wits when he was about to undertake a screening for COVID-19 at the entrance of the Tati River Clinic and he had an involuntary cough that caught the attention of the nurse. “Sorry sir, how long have you had that cough?” asked the nurse with a serious demeanour besides the any questions that Mosikare had to answer to.
“It has been mild and I can’t remember when it all started and it’s nothing really to worry about and it is not coronavirus-related,” was Mosikare’s response in defence of his naughty cough that had landed him into trouble.
He like health workers feared for his life as he continued reporting on the virus whose infection has been spreading like a flooded river.
He was elated that other vital signs like body temperature were normal which removed the nurse’s attention from him.