For over 4-months running, the world has and is gradually grinding to a halt owing to the Coronavirus outbreak. The virus which began in Wuhan-China has spread dramatically to at least 171 countries on the globe, sickening 937,000 people and resulting in approximately 47,200 deaths, and with over 194,000 full recoveries.
From every look of things, the political, economic and social life of countries and that of its citizens has been affected a great deal in the face of varying measures taken to limit the spread of the new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
As corporations shut their doors to workers, and schools emptying themselves of students and pupils, streets in many countries running empty with constant calls on people to socially distance, one of the places that have seemingly not known less busy days are hospitals and health posts.
It is 11 am on April 2, 2020 in Bamenda, the chief capital city of the Northwest region of Cameroon, and we are in one of the busiest hospitals located at one of the popular road junctions as you make your entry into the city. At the entrance of the hospital, there are nurses dressed in protective gear and holding Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer. Magdalene Laneng, one of the nurses with a thermometer tells me the essence of systematically taking the temperatures of every patient entering this hospital, is to know if they have high temperatures which is one of the suspected factors for COVID-19.
“In this process, if we dictate any abnormal temperature, it is a call for concern,” she said. Just a few steps into the outpatient department patients outnumber the seats reserved for clients as they await medical care, this tells you of a very busy day in this hospital.
This hospital and other health facilities in the city amidst a health outbreak like the Coronavirus the world is currently experiencing are called on upon to surmount all challenges and promptly respond to all suspected cases and do referrals appropriately when necessary.
In line with the response to disease outbreaks like COVID-19, those who are constantly at the fore are nurses. Beginning from simple procedures like taking vital signs to drug administration and monitoring critically ill patients, nurses are ever there. Their role cannot be overemphasized.
Mrs. Chimi Emmerencia, Supervisor of Nursing Services (SNS), at Nkwen Baptist Health Center says the nursing core is one which has to be at the forefront of outbreaks even like Coronavirus. “We [Nurses] are always the first contact points to patients as they make their way to the hospital. Hence, we must and should be ready always”.
Quizzed on what is keeping their courage alive in the face of outbreaks like Coronavirus, Mrs. Chimi explains, “Our job is a calling and once you are called, the passion of saving lives keeps your courage alive. My earnest hope is that God should keep all the nurses safe from contracting the Coronavirus for their job is a battle and retreating is not an option”.
The nurse par excellence used the opportunity to call on nurses to model after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern-day nursing even as they discharge their delicate job of ensuring the welfare of those committed to their care even in outbreaks.
The Coronavirus has and is affecting many across the globe with health workers inclusive. According to China’s National Health Commission, over 3,300 health workers contracted the new virus. While in Italy one of the recent epicenter of the COVID-19, some 2,629 health workers were infected by the Coronavirus. In Cameroon, an entire health center was closed in the city of Bafoussam and all the health workers put into quarantine when one of them contracted the virus in the line of duty.
Conjecturing from these gloomy figures, it is time for more efforts to be done to keep health personnel at the forefront of the Coronavirus fight safe. For like Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, General Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) put it, “Health workers are the glue that holds our health systems and outbreaks together”.
By and large, given the outbreaks have a toll on the very people who put their lives on the line to serve others, there is certainly more to be to done ranging from making available protective gear and consumables to keeping their morale high.