Our Duty, National Call: Health Workers Determined

Health staff at the forefront in the fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ghana have described their work as a call to national duty which they are not just obliged to honour, but privileged to be involved in.
Doctors, nurses, medical laboratory scientists, cleaners and ambulance drivers, while admitting the high risk involved as they go about their duty, consider the situation as a war that requires all capable and competent hands, particularly their expertise, to win.

These are the sentiments a number of the frontliners expressed to the Daily Graphic when the paper elicited their views and challenges as frontline health workers

To honour these staff, the Daily Graphic is interacting with a number of them around the country in the line of duty.

National fight

“This is a national fight in a worldwide war and just as soldiers lead in times of battle, this is another kind of battle that requires us to be in the frontline. It is challenging, but a great honour and a sense of pride to be involved in a battle that we have to win at all cost,” many of the frontline staff the Daily Graphic interviewed stressed.

University of Ghana Medical Centre

The staff at the University of Ghana Medical Centre, one of the facilities selected to manage cases in the Greater Accra Region, said once they were informed about that decision, they triggered their protocols in readiness, reports Doreen Andoh.

The Director of Medical Services of the facility, Dr Kwame Anim-Boamah, said:” In our line of duty as health professionals, we do not treat some conditions, but all conditions, and COVID-19 is a real battle. This is the time our expertise is needed.’’

He was full of praise for his team members, from the cleaner to the final decision makers at the treatment centre and in the boardroom for their roles in ensuring that their patients received the best of care.

“Being involved to win this battle is a national pride and we are all privileged to be part of it. I celebrate the team at UGMC and all the health staff involved in this battle. Yes, it is our duty but we can pride ourselves on how hard we fought to achieve victory.

“Sometimes when you even have an ordinary cough or sneeze, you begin to feel anxious about whether you have contracted the disease, but this is normal and will not deter us in any way. We are going all out for country,” he said.

Dr Boamah admitted that like many frontline health workers, the team of the UGMC was initially concerned due to inadequate PPE but after the training and sensitisation, they were ready to serve.

“There was an initial anxiety, but we received adequate training and enough of the PPE in preparation. Also, the assurance from the government that there would be consistent supply of PPE to ensure our safety set everyone’s mind at ease.

The Senior Specialist and Lead Clinician of the UGMC COVID Response Team, Dr Godfred Takyi, admitted that there were some mixed feelings of trepidation and concern within the healthcare sector but said that was because a lot was not known about the virus coupled with news of healthcare professionals who had contracted the disease in the line of duty in some countries.

He said for the team at the hospital, particularly, the COVID-19 treatment centre, it was a great honour, pleasure and opportunity to contribute to the national COVID-19 response.

He said although it was not that easy, saving human lives was their ultimate concern and so it was business as usual for them once they were adequately protected.

Nurses role critical

The Director for Nursing and Midwifery Services (DNMS) at the hospital, Mrs Judith Asiamah, said frontline health workers, particularly nurses and midwives, said given the critical role they played, they were maintaining the standards as much as possible to ensure that lives were not lost to the pandemic.

She said the journey had not been easy because every day presented new problems and solutions to dealing with COVID-19 and enhance national response.

For her, the journey of responding to COVID-19 was a learning process for the nursing and midwifery fraternity to facilitate and add on to what they knew about prevention and management of infectious diseases.

“The start of the journey for patients and suspected cases start with us so we have to be alert and look out for the correct signals once a patient arrives, to ensure that any case does not slip through.

She described the experience as “ so far, so good,” and said she was of the firm belief that nurses all over the country were committed to playing their role in the fight.

A principal nursing officer and supervisor at the UGMC treatment centre, Mrs Rita Odonkor, explained that their role had also included helping the patients to have a positive outlook about their situation in addition to providing all the necessary nursing care.

“The joy has been seeing people who came in so desperate and afraid recovering both medically and psychologically,” she intimated.

Medical lab scientists

A medical laboratory scientist, Ms Felicia Pokua Dwomoh, who had come to collect blood samples from the treatment centre, said she was excited to be part of helping to save humankind in the fight against the pandemic. She added that the high level of precautionary measures they had to take put her mind at ease.

Like the doctors and nurses, she had to don the full coveralls of the personal protective equipment (PPE) to enter and doff after exit and each of the process which took about 15 minutes, had to be repeated anytime one entered or exited.

She said she was not worried about it as that was to provide ample protection in a bid to save human lives which was her priority.

“Our supervisors ensure we are donning and doffing properly to ensure maximum safety for us.

“It is fulfilling that I have an opportunity to be a frontline worker,” she said.

Hygiene team/cleaners

Other critical staff or departments at the health facilities visited are the cleaning department and the security – this group of staff, the hospital administration recalled, are very important in ensuring that all is set.

They clean the facilities to ensure there are no infections and keep the environment clean for the other members of the team to attend to clients.

The officer in charge of the hygiene department of the Effia Nkwanta Hospital in the Western Region, Mr Francis Tetteh, said they were doing their job, but COVID-19 had placed a lot of pressure on them, saying “We have more to do than before,” reports Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu.

Mr Tetteh said staff were mostly constrained with adequate logistics, but we have no option but to comply and do our best with the limited resources to achieve results.

“Our job is one of the most important; we have to do it with care to ensure we do not even infect ourselves,” he said.

He said they were happy when they heard clients pass comments about the cleanliness of the facility as they walked in and out. ‘’We do work around the clock to ensure no waste is left inside or outside any of the structures of care,” he said.