February 5, 2021
Nurses need not worry once they follow protocols – Official

ONCE NURSES PRACTICE the protocols they have been trained to follow when dealing with COVID-19 patients, they do not have to worry about contracting the disease and spreading it.

This is the position of a senior manager in the Ministry of Health who, responding to complaints made by a nurse, and published in SEARCHLIGHT last Friday, said the protocols being used are those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and it must be noted that once these procedures are followed, nurses can, after work, interact safely with other persons.

“The chief complaint is that they are taking nurses and rotate them. So one night you can be working with COVID-19 patients and the other night, you are working with other patients,” the nurse, who is attached to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) had said.

Other issues raised by the nurse were, short staff, dwindling space to house COVID-19 patients, limited Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the fact that nurses had to find their own transport and go back to their homes after working with COVID-19 patients.

According to WHO, in areas of community or cluster transmission, health workers, caregivers and visitors should wear a mask at all times when in the health facility, even if physical distancing can be maintained. Masks should be worn throughout their shifts, apart from when eating, drinking or needing to change the mask for specific reasons.

Health workers and caregivers include: doctors, nurses, midwives, medical attendants, cleaners, community health workers, and any others working in clinical areas.

The WHO also notes that health workers must remember to combine hand hygiene with any time they touch their mask or face, before and after putting on and removing their masks, as well as before they touch them to readjust them.

It was noted that WHO first issued interim guidance on recommended practices for health workers caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients in January

2020, which included following droplet/contact precautions, surgical gown, gloves, medical mask, and eye protection.

The medical manager noted that every two days, 3000 masks are sent to the MCMH while nurses with pre-existing conditions do not work with COVID-19 patients.

In relation to staffing, last month, 25 nurses were hired, adding to nurses hired in December 2020. More nurses are also expected to be hired soon. There has also been a decrease in elective surgeries.

The WHO notes that health workers in contact with and/or who care for COVID-19 patients are at a higher risk of infection than the general population.

“Mitigating and reducing this risk is essential to protecting their well-being and reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“Available scientific evidence suggests that appropriate personal protective equipment use, hand hygiene best practices, implementation of universal masking policies in health care facilities and adequate infection prevention and control (IPC) training and education are associated with decreased risk of COVID-19 among health workers,” WHO says on its website.

The WHO also stresses that the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infections in health workers requires a multi-pronged integrated approach that includes occupational health and safety (OHS) measures as well as IPC.

“All healthcare facilities should establish or strengthen and implement (a) IPC programmes and (b) Occupational Health and Safety programmes with protocols to ensure HW safety and prevent HW infections while in the work environment. Ensuring adequate clinical staffing levels is recommended to prevent the transmission of health care-associated infections,” WHO says.