COVID-19 STRAIN

Psychosocial support best armour for medics

Many experiencing emotional and physical strain with escalating number of cases.

In Summary
  • They have also expressed anxiety over the shortage of PPE and they are concerned about infecting family and friends.
  • All stakeholders in the health sector need to come together and work together for the long term.  

Typically, a day in the life of a medic can be said to be hectic, demanding and possibly stressful. From managing patient care, working long hours, sometimes dealing with the loss of a patient and spending less time with loved ones. These stressors increase the risk for mental, physical and emotional strain.

The Covid–19 pandemic has come with a strain on healthcare infrastructure, an evolving situation around patient care recommendations, increased workload and unease given the daily exposure to the disease. This has called for the need for Kenya’s national healthcare system to embrace and champion for the mental and psychosocial support for medical workers in both public and private healthcare institutions.

Increasingly, frontline medical workers are facing a tough time, with many experiencing emotional and physical strain with the daily escalating numbers of positive cases. Medics have also expressed anxiety over the shortage of PPE and they are concerned about infecting family and friends should they be exposed to Covid-19.

Stigmatisation from family, friends and neighbours who worry about being exposed by the medics only compounds the situation. This has resulted in the medical teams coming together as a support pillar for each other and standing brave, despite having their fears and worries.

Even as countries focus on containing Covid-19 and on the provision of PPE, mental health is now considered a very critical element of comprehensive global response against the disease.

The Kenya Covid-19 Fund Board and Equity Group Foundation have supported the establishment of a mental and psychosocial wellness programme by the health workers’ associations to benefit 50,000 personnel serving on the frontline, at a cost of Sh85 million.

This has been hailed as an appropriate and timely response that will foster the resilience of the health sector by increasing the confidence of medics, preventing mental health stress and reinforcing their ability to handle future mental stress.

Availability of PPE gives confidence to health workers to serve in the frontline when appropriately armoured. The partners have also been working with local manufacturers to boost capacity to produce high-quality PPE as well as to increase the reservoir and ease the strain caused by shortages of this essential equipment. This initiative has allowed the medical fraternity to work closely with local manufacturers to co-create local capacity for medical consumables, while at the same time strengthening quality.

While the Covid- 19 pandemic has come with challenges of magnitudes never before seen, it has also presented an opportunity for partnerships in creating long-lasting solutions. All stakeholders in the health sector need to come together and work together for the long term.

Initiatives that have been taken by some medical institutions, both in the private and public sector, such as having chaplains and counsellors to support the medical teams is a welcome move. Such an initiative is an investment in employee wellness.

For the healthcare worker associations, this is the time to establish and strengthen in-house systems and programmes that offer all-round support to members. Physical and mental wellness forms the basis for social and economic wellness and thus prosperity.

The counties and Ministry of Health policies and infrastructure to support medical care workers and Kenyans at large will go a long way in seeing the country realise universal health coverage status.

Within the medical field, we have also been challenged by the Kenya Covid-19 Fund Board and Equity Group Foundation and we commit to prioritising mental and psychosocial wellness for our members and Kenyans in general.

The help by such partners was significant but other corporates can also follow suit and invest in supporting the country’s mental health system. Your minimal contribution will go a long way in reducing the mental health burden in the country.