The Coronavirus pandemic, in the last few months since it hit the shores of Nigeria, has been bravely fought by the medical profession in the country. The bravery and resilience of health workers, most especially the frontline personnel, has put them at great risk as many have tested positive. Worse still, some have been isolated.
Majority of these isolated healthcare workers have recovered while some deaths have been recorded. Despite the limiting factors such as limited availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), especially at the point when local infection rate began to soar, the health workers which includes doctors, nurses, hospital attendants, pharmacists, phlebotomist amongst others still braced the odds to abide by their calling.
This bravery, however, has had its attendant toll on the psyche of a large number of health workers. Based on this premise, the management of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in collaboration with Employee Assistance Professionals Association of Nigeria (EAPAN) decided to create awareness through the platform to address some of these afore-mentioned issues.
Tagged ‘COVID-19 Psychological Support Awareness for LASUTH Staff’, the project is expected to help attend to health workers who might need certain levels of psychological evaluation in order to help them cope with the anxieties and realities being faced during this pandemic. Recently, a stakeholder’s webinar was held via zoom to fully intimate all parties involved on how this process will work.
The President of EAPAN, Dr Marcel Nwaogu left no stone unturned as he succinctly explained how the procedures would play out. He said the resilience and strength of health workers have been greatly tested and many need a strong support system to wake up every day and still believe that they can go to the hospital to help save lives. While explaining the modus operandi, Dr Marcel noted that the platform is rendering a 24-hour confidential call-in service for whoever needs to speak to a professional psychologist for free. Where there might be a need for further consultations for those who need secondary care, they will be referred to the Department of Behavioral Sciences in LASUTH.
The Head of Department Behavioral Sciences, LASUTH, Dr Atilola, pointed out that it is becoming a common knowledge that health workers are already in desperate need of help and that the platform is a creative way to help them bare their mind on whatever they are going through. He pointed out that due to the familiarity among the health workers in the hospital, many may not be willing to fully share their fears but the platform will help them get adequate counsel and privacy as required. He also noted with appreciation that having workers to speak with the professionals is a form of “psychological triage (first aid) and that would greatly reduce the number of patients that would be seen physically, which means that, we would consult only with those who would need further evaluation.” He promised that his department is committed to ensuring that the programme works.
The Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo made an important note that the management of the hospital also had to go through a lot of psychological pressure, most especially being burdened by the safety of staff; worrying and hoping for a no-mortality rate among staff; taking deliberate steps to shut down clinics despite the fact that it was against all odds. The CMD also mentioned that management has been ensuring timely provision of PPE despite the cut-throat prices and scarcity. He made note that it was a tough call trying to protect staff and at the same time creating available means to provide treatment for urgent matters.
The well-attended webinar had participants from different departments which include the clinical and non-clinical units in the hospital. Many of the participants were able to share their challenges, ranging from the anxiety of being tested and isolated due to the exposure; dealing with panic, fear and anxiety among colleagues.
Dr Femi Olugbile, an Ex Officio of EAPAN, who also moderated the webinar was hopeful that with all hands on deck, the programme will go a long way in helping frontline health workers maintain their sanity and resilience to keep on carrying out their assignments.
The webinar which was rated as highly interactive level by the participants ended with a vote of thanks from Dr Ibrahim Mustafa, the Director of Clinical Services and Training, LASUTH.