Heroes of Groote Schuur - nurses share experience during COVID-19
Photo Cred: Pexels

Perspective from nurses in a COVID-19 ICU ward during the global pandemic.


Western Cape, South Africa (24 June 2020) – The Heroes of Groote Schuur – a Facebook page dedicated to our frontline workers – was created to celebrate all those individuals who embody the hospital’s spirit of excellence. From the technicians to the doctors, nurses to night-watchmen, kitchen staff to porters — every single person plays an important role in helping the hospital fulfil its mission of providing quality healthcare for all.

This week, Verna Collins and Judith Parenzee – two Nurses in a COVID-19 ICU ward – shared their experience during the fight against this pandemic.

“We used to have 6 beds in here, now we’re sitting with 18 beds. In the unit that I’m currently working in, we’ve only had one patient that’s actually left. The turnover is so bad. We’ve been admitting constantly, it just goes on and on and on. The thing that I can’t handle the most is the families not being involved with the patients, especially if they are at their end, how do you communicate that.

With the normal respiratory patients that we used to have you have a rapport with them because you meet their family, especially if they are long-stay. So now that part is totally taken away because you don’t have any connection with the family. It’s only a phone and then you don’t know who you’re talking to on the other side.

So now what they do, the families, is they video call. If the patient’s doing well then it’s okay then at least they can see progress. If they’re dying how do you video call the family?

The family wants to see their relative. You can tell them the patient is ventilated, the patient is sedated but to physically get a picture and see all the tubes – they don’t even recognise the person that’s lying there. This is the worst part for me. And there’s no time for us to make that connection with patients because of the workload. It’s like a machine, you work from bed to bed to bed, then you go back to the beginning, so the norm that we knew as nurses and the contact we had with patients is no longer there because you won’t get through the day’s work, it’s crazy

None of the patients can communicate, because they’re all paralysed, they’re all sedated. We paralyze and sedate the patients with medication because we need to protect their lungs.

We work 12 hours – we wake up at 5, get here about 6:30, leave here at about 7:30 at night. Normally we’ll work a Monday, Tuesday, then have Wednesday and Thursday off, and then work the weekend. But now there’s no staff, there’s just no staff, so now they ask us to work one of our off days as well.

We’re all parents, we all have families we need to take care of. And you still go home with whatever’s happening here.

This place steals a lot away from you. We are emotionally drained. I’m emotionally drained from yesterday and now I have to face today.

We are full full full. I don’t know where all the new patients are going to go.

This morning I asked the doctor, ‘Is there ever going to be a time when you guys decide what is the criteria for patients to come to ICU, and who’s going to make that decision’, and he said ‘all we can do is try’.”

These stories give us a perspective from our heroes point of view but these heroes also need the right equipment to deliver a high standard of care – which is why the hospital has launched its Bed Fundraising Appeal.

The hospital needs to replace 84 beds in its Intensive and High Care Units with electronic beds to allow for the optimum care of patients. The total cost for each bed and the accompanying monitor is R105 000 — bringing the total refurbishment cost to R8 820 000. You can help the hospital reach its goal!

How to assist:

Please consider a donation towards this cause — any amount will help. Visit https://www.gshfb.co.za/donate/ to donate.

Heroes of Groote Schuur - nurses share experience during COVID-19
Photo Cred: Groote Schuur

Sources: Heroes of Groot Schuur 
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and man in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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