This week Jamaica had our first case of Covid-19 which was an imported case… by Friday of this same week we had cases of local spread. Information about this new virus is all over the internet and local media… some accurate and some not so accurate. Spreading fake news can be disastrous, while dispelling myths can protect us all in the long run.
After the announcement of Covid- 19 in Jamaica, supermarkets were full and everyone went into hurricane mode- stocking up on everything from food to toilet paper to hand sanitisers. Some places have even ran out of cleaning supplies and hand sanitisers leaving none for others… some stores are unfortunately marking up the prices during this time.
Covid-19 has already begun to show our strengths and weaknesses as a country. The government has been doing an excellent job at communicating and taking action. Schools are closed, communities are quarantined and we are now declared a disaster area. A lot is happening very quickly and a lot is still not known.
For more information, the Ministry of Health and Wellness has a page dedicated to Covid-19, this page is filled with information about the virus, links to other websites and infographics. There’s even a dropbox that has been put together. The main message through out all of this is, protect yourselves by proper hand washing and avoid persons who are sick or if you’re sick. If you do become sick or come in contact with someone exposed it is important to be honest with health care workers.
For many of us, this will be the first time we have ever experienced anything like this. We are scared, but this fear can be lessened with appropriate information.
Healthcare workers will be on the frontlines of this outbreak, taking care of the sick as well has preventing sickness. Once covid-19 was announced, even before it arrived to Jamaica, preparations were being made. While everyone hoped it wouldn’t come here, no one was naive enough to say there’s no need to prepare. Each health related building has done its own due diligence in an effort to prepare. Once the virus entered the country, even more preparation occurred so that healthcare workers and facilities would hopefully be ready and able to manage cases.
Several press conferences and press briefs have happened this week alone. One brought up the unfortunate reality that persons have been stealing hospital supplies needed to serve the country and protect our healthcare workers. Many stories and examples have come out of inappropriate use of masks and gloves which deplete the stock. The reality is that, if health care workers do not have access to personal protective equipment, we cannot work. The misuse of supplies will hurt us in the long run if not nipped in the bud. More and more education is needed, but it is also apparent that other security measures to safe guard supplies and limit the amount that are given out irresponsibly is required.
Persons who work in healthcare are expected to operate at a different level than the general public, especially as it relates to education around covid-19. So seeing persons in gloves, N-95 masks and other types of masks when they’re not necessary and only wasting resources is a shame.
In this context, health care workers are everyone who work in health care, from security guards to administration to doctors. All these persons are at the facilities and may interface with someone known or not yet known to have covid-19. Here are some ways they can be protected.
Have knowledge of your hospital’s/ health centre’s protocols and guidelines
Each location, by now, should have some guideline or protocol for if someone comes and is suspected of having the virus or has it. Arming yourself with this information empowers you to do the right thing when a potentially infected patient arrives.
Practice proper hand washing techniques and don’t touch your face
Being in a higher risk area, makes proper hand hygiene important. While it is expected that this was always practiced, there is need to be even more deliberate with hygiene practices now.
Educate yourself on when masks are appropriate and which ones are for what setting
Save resources for when they’re needed by knowing when you are required to mask up and which mask to use.
Learn to ‘doff and don’
If you’re going to be using personal protective equipment, you must know how to properly put them on and take them off. If you don’t, you might think you’re being protected when you really aren’t.
Educate those around you
Because we work in health care, persons often look to us for expert information, we must use this authority to spread factual information. This is to ALL LEVELS of health care workers.
If you’re unsure, speak with your superior. It’s better to ask than to wonder.
Stand up for yourselves
If you find that you’re not being appropriately protected or educated, speak up.
Work as a team
Working as a unit is more important now than ever, not just for patients but also for our own personal safety.
If you’re uncomfortable, unsure, or even unwell. Be honest with your team about your feelings, fears and reservations.
If you have more suggestions please let me know. This is all new, and everyday things are changing. We have to be adaptable and try our best to stay safe. Health care workers are people too, I sometimes find that we forget. Just like you, we have families, friends, hopes, illnesses and fears. Keep us in your prayers, but more importantly, know the facts and practice what’s right to decrease the amount of cases of covid-19.
PS. Take off the gloves and just wash your hands! The gloves play a role in spreading the virus more so than protecting against it.
Samantha C. Johnson
Featured photo from MOHW dropbox!