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Healthcare workers say they are facing Covid burnout

By Shermain Bique-Charles

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As Covid infections and deaths continue to climb in Antigua and Barbuda, the long-lasting impact on the mental health of nurses and doctors has come under the spotlight.

Some healthcare workers who spoke to Observer on Tuesday testified to mounting anxiety, especially among those who have witnessed the deaths of several patients in recent weeks.

Some said they are ready to quit the profession, while others are reportedly not even showing up for work.

The four nurses who spoke on condition of anonymity say they have found it increasingly difficult to cope after a Covid patient dies while in their care.

“They expect us to just move on from the dead body and pretend that it wasn’t someone who just lost their life,” one senior nurse lamented. 

“Nurses [are] working over a year without vacation. It goes on and on. No counselling … we are very frustrated. It’s like nobody cares,” she added.

Apart from the death toll, the tough environment, according to these healthcare workers, is taking a toll on their personal lives, too.

Some of them shared that their family life is being placed on the back burner because their energy levels are at an all-time low, due to the long, gruelling shifts.

 “I hardly have the energy to even cook a proper meal for my family. I am exhausted. My child sees less of me. My husband wonders if he has a wife. I am tired – mentally, emotionally, everything-ally,” she said.

Some nurses are reportedly working 16 hours a day with just one day off a week.

Coupled with that, they say it’s a challenge to manoeuvre around the hospital with resource limitations, infection control, staff safety, and adaptation of critical care services while ensuring patient safety in a rapidly evolving pandemic situation.

The nurses themselves are also testing positive for Covid-19 in higher numbers than before, according to those who spoke with Observer.

Describing it as the “Gaza strip”, they say Covid patients are scattered all over the hospital, because of space limitations, while Covid-infected patients are allegedly being mixed with non-Covid patients in the emergency rooms.

 “It is like a war zone out there. We are sacrificing our lives every day,” the source said.

These nurses, who said that they are at breaking point, want counselling and time off to deal with the chaotic situation.

Health officials recently admitted that the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre was almost filled to capacity.

Visits have also been restricted as the country continues to grapple with the virus.

Repeated attempts to get a comment from the Minster of Health, Molwyn Joseph, proved futile.

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