Groote Schuur
Photo Credit: Heroes of Groote Schuur

Dr Zane Stenning, a 2nd Year Intern at Groote Schuur Hospital, shared his story and COVID-19 experience with Heroes of Groote Schuur, and it is both inspiring and harrowing!


Cape Town, South Africa (13 January 2020) – Heroes of Groote Schuur is a Facebook page dedicated to highlighting the amazing people who work or visit the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.

The page is highlighting all the incredible working being done by the staff who keep everything running smoothly. Heroes featured on the page often have the most interesting jobs, especially now during the pandemic when so much was up in the air.

The latest features give the doctors and nurses at the hospital the chance to share their stories. This time they honour Dr Zane Stenning, a 2nd Year Intern at Groote Schuur Hospital. This is his story and COVID-19 experience. He shares the harrowing details of how they struggle to give ICU care to the patients who need it most.

“I was working in Dr Symons Firm for internal medicine, and we all got transferred down to Covid. So our unit has three consultants, three registrars and about five interns that have been managing Covid for pretty much the whole second wave. We were the respiratory unit.

Previously everyone was cycling in and out of Covid, but then they thought it would just make more sense to have the respiratory guys run the thing. So then our whole team became the Covid team.

The second wave has definitely been way worse, markedly more severe presentations of patients, and younger patients getting tubed.

We have criteria now for ICU based on all sorts of things. If you are triaged red, it means that you are a high priority ICU patient. If you triage orange, green or yellow, you have a lesser priority for ICU. Currently, because there are no beds available, we are only accepting red patients to ICU, and even still some red patients aren’t getting accepted.

Obviously, it’s not left to one person to decide who gets into ICU and who doesn’t and I think that’s what’s been good for us as junior staff because we’ve had a lot of exposure to that now. Our team is stretched very thin so now when we are discussing this kind of thing, we are asked for our input which is a role that interns typically wouldn’t play.

So that’s been good exposure for us in that respect – getting to learn what a patient needs to look like to require ICU, and getting your clinical eye trained better to the severity of the disease.

It’s taxing, though. Because when you’re standing at the bedside and they say this patient’s not for ICU you know that you’re the one that has to phone the family and tell them and that’s never easy. Especially now with the younger patients, it’s so shocking for the families.

It’s very taxing – physically, emotionally, definitely. And there’s no getting around it because the next day is work again. We get one weekend off a month, so we’re physically coming to work every day, and having long days. And busy days – like we just took a patient to ICU now, so that’s a whole intubation, the whole team is there, the patient has crashed, it’s time to tube them, so it’s running around pushing beds up and down to ICU, and on a bad day we do like 5 or 6 of those if there’s space in ICU.

We have patients who are like boarders – they have been here on high flow oxygen for two months. We take our time with patients, if they need the high flow, we let them stay on it, but we are still struggling with bed space. ICU is critical. Our ward is full all the time. As soon as there’s a bed available, it’s filled.

I like riding my motorbike or running in the morning before work, but that’s essential. You have to keep those personal escapes otherwise you won’t cope.

I’ve enjoyed being a doctor more and more during Covid. With the increased responsibility you come to realise that, actually, your patients are better off if you are there. You want to be there for your patients so that you can advocate for them as best you can.

It’s hectic. And there are still educated people out there saying they won’t take the vaccine. I’d take one in each limb if I could.” – Dr Zane Stenning, 2nd Year Intern at Groote Schuur.

Sources: Heroes of Groote Schuur
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Tyler Leigh Vivier
About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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