Covid-19 in UAE: Duty first for frontline health workers who handle the crisis

coronavirus in uae, dubai, covid19 in uae

Dubai - When many others are practising voluntary isolation, duty comes first for hundreds of doctors and nurses.

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By Nandini Sircar

Published: Sat 21 Mar 2020, 11:51 PM

The Covid-19 epidemic is unfolding across the world at a rapid pace. During these times healthcare facilities can be chaotic places, particularly in the emergency department.

Medics face the potential of a large number of unannounced and undiagnosed patients arriving at once. These amp up their risks of being exposed to either silent or active carriers of the virus.

When many others are practising social-distancing and voluntary isolation, duty comes first for hundreds of doctors and nurses in the UAE, who are at the forefront, treating people on a war footing without considering the number of hours they are putting in or leaves that they can avail.

"I am worried that if I fall sick now, how will I fulfil my duty when I am most needed as a medical practitioner," asks Dr Corinna Weber, specialist, internal medicine, NMC.

Commenting on the elevated risk of exposure for healthcare workers and reiterating similar sentiments is Dr Pradeep Kumar, GP emergency medicine, Aster Hospital, Qusais, said: "It's our duty to ensure people's safety and care. I do not consider it to be a sacrifice. If we don't do it, who else will do it?"

Patients with symptoms of Covid-19 are rapidly triaged in separate space until they can be placed in isolation rooms, following the standard precautionary measures and guidelines and other protocol policies issued by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

Healthcare workers need to be quick and vigilant about isolating anyone from the public who seems to be experiencing flu-like symptoms, a respiratory illness or travel history in concerned countries.

"Patients are treated by doctors and nurses wearing the standard Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). We wear the surgical or N-95 masks, goggles, gloves and gowns which are meant for one-time use and are immediately disposed of. In case, the patient needs to be moved to the isolation stage when tested positive, they are shifted to negative pressure isolation rooms," added Dr Kumar.

Stepping up efforts to prevent cross-contamination, doctors and nurses are supposed to change their clothes in the facility itself, following the mandatory cleaning instruction.

"The nursing staff is advised to log onto the hospital portal and to not touch the biometric system. Also continued education is part of the hospital's training activity. Physical training has been suspended for now, but online classes for frontline workers are available through Skype both for self-care and patient care," said Mariana Siritanu, who is the director of nursing at Prime Hospital.

"These are challenging times and this situation is unprecedented. But we are comfortable based on our education and we take protective measures like checking the temperature of the nurses daily, wearing full protective gear, sanitising our hands and communicating and caring well for these workers who are salient to the system," opines Rochelle Peterson, who is the director of nursing at Emirates Hospital Jumeirah. With people feeling more vulnerable now, even patients with minor cases of cough and cold don't deter from showing up at the hospitals.

"There is a deluge of patients generally, because people have frayed nerves now. The ones who are suspected or confirmed cases are sometimes high strung. So, we need to assuage them and treat them not just clinically but also psychologically," said Dr Hassan Kazia, specialist emergency physician, Prime Hospital.

"As for personal inhibitions, I have three children but mentally and physically we have been professionally trained to handle difficult situations," he added.

Recently, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, visited a number of professionals on the frontline of the UAE's fight against Covid-19.

The Crown Prince then shared pictures with them to his nearly 10 million Instagram followers, with a 30-second clip exchanging dialogue with doctors, paramedics and officers. Sheikh Hamdan also expressed his gratitude to these people working untiringly for everyone's safety by captioning the post, "Our front liners. Thank you".

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