Tuesday, 26 May 2020

EMS Student heroes: Fighting Covid-19 on the frontline

HEROES: EMS students are among the Healthcare heroes in the fight against Covid-19. HEROES: EMS students are among the Healthcare heroes in the fight against Covid-19.

As the global community continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, our health workers have emerged as the heroes of this crisis. Among them are many of our very own CPUT students who are working selflessly to help others. Some are risking their own lives at the frontlines.

Students from the Department of Emergency Medical Sciences have heeded the call for help by health authorities by manning ambulances and the recently erected temporary hospitals. Others have volunteered to assist in various non-clinical roles such as manning the telephones in the call-centre.

Over the next few days, they will be telling their stories in their own words. The first story is from a Fourth-Year Bachelor of Emergency Medical Care student:

“I am a CPUT student on the Bachelor of Emergency Medical care programme and I am also an emergency care technician at Emergency Medical Services. I am currently working permanently on the designated COVID-19 vehicle at my base. This means that every call I do on every shift is either a confirmed positive case or a suspected case of coronavirus.

I have to vigorously wipe my ambulance down after every single call and allow my vehicle to air for 30 minutes. I have to wear uncomfortable personal protective equipment for every call I do – this consists of an apron, a visor, a mask and gloves. All of which are currently in short supply within the EMS system. This means that I, all too often, have to reuse and recycle PPE, which is most unhygienic and unethical towards my patients.

 Every day, I change into other clothes in the parking lot at the base so as to avoid contaminating my personal vehicle and possibly infecting my family. I am constantly fighting with my colleagues about COVID-19 calls as everyone is refusing to do them as they are scared. My call volumes are reaching levels that are impossible for one vehicle alone to do.

I am being pushed to my limits. I have regular fights every day at hospitals regarding correct PPE and procedures when it is not my fault. I have to fight at hospitals just to give me an apron because I am only issued one for an entire shift and it needs to be changed after every patient I touch. I am expected to wear an N95 mask for seven days straight.

When I air my vehicle for 30 minutes, I sit with my laptop and try my best to complete some studies as there is simply not enough time. I am a father of two small children, a fiancé to an amazing woman and a dad to four dogs – all of whom, I can possibly infect and harm. This places enormous stress on me every single day of my life.

On top of this, I am participating in full-time studies for my degree. Something I have been dedicating my life to for the past three years. I have not failed a single subject in my time at CPUT. I have been dreaming about becoming an Emergency Care Practitioner since 2013. My shift cycles interfere immensely with my studies. I am expected to put in 10-15 hours a week into my studies, whilst working 168 hours on the ambulance.

 Being a final year on this degree is hard enough under normal circumstances, but now it is next to impossible. I refuse to give up or quit and I will push until I physically and mentally cannot anymore. It is my dream to serve my community in every way that I possibly can, and I will not let anything stop me.”

*Name has been withheld to protect identity.

Written by Ilse Fredericks

Email: Frederickskennediji@cput.ac.za