NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A doctor who manages COVID-19 patients at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) said while the task at hand is both challenging and overwhelming at times, healthcare workers “consider this our calling” and will “keep going” on the frontlines.
“We try to encourage each other because we know it is overwhelming; it’s challenging and we know The Bahamas is being affected just like all these other big countries, but the one thing that we do know is that it matter and we are going to keep going because we know it matters,” said Dr Darbrielle Hunt-Burrows, a physician in the Department of Medicine at PMH.
She is part of the core medical response team managing hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
After an exposure event at PMH earlier this month, Hunt-Burrows has been in self-isolation.
She spoke to Eyewitness News after being tested for the virus along with 200 other healthcare workers on Saturday, and was awaiting the results.
She described the ordeal as “surreal”.
“It’s because quite a number of healthcare workers would have families that they go home to, and so, there is a certain amount of concern that we have about any exposure that our families would be at risk for,” Hunt-Burrows said.
“We have concerns about the exposure of any other patients that we would be managing, subsequently being at risk for exposure too.
“So, even though we realize that there are unintended or unexpected exposure that happens in these cases, these situations cause a significant amount of concern when we then discover we might be exposed.”
As of Tuesday, over 50 percent of those tests returned negative, according to health officials.
There have been 80 confirmed cases of the virus in the country.
Healthcare workers make up at least 15 of those cases or 21 percent.
Hunt-Burrows encounters carriers of the virus each day; her multiple layers of personal protective gear aimed to safeguard her from infection.
Asked how she has braved it since the first case was confirmed in March, the doctor said: “Well, for the majority of healthcare workers, we consider this our calling.
“This is something that we have chosen to do and we recognize, and certainly as it has been unfolding in our experience now, particular with this event that has happened, not every patient is going to advertise to us ‘I am a COVID positive patient’.
“These exposure events will happen in unexpected ways sometimes. But, this is the field or the calling that we have decided to do, and this is something that we, each decide, that we will set out to do. This is a risk that we have undertaken.
“We don’t take it likely, but this is what we will set out to do each day.”
She said her team and all healthcare workers on the frontline know what to do and follow strict guidelines and protocols, which continue to be improved.
But even the most careful, methodical practice cannot prevent all potential exposures.
A significant percentage of her team was in quarantine recently.
She encouraged the public to adhere to the emergency orders, social distancing and continue to wear facial masks in public areas.
Hunt-Burrows said the healthcare workers on the frontline remain enthusiastic, noting that “on any given day these patients can be our relatives; this patient could be anybody’s coworker; these can be someone’s neighbor”.
“The Bahamian community is so closely knit that any day, a patient who comes in affected by this disease is important to everybody,” she said.
“It matters and we recognize that and we are trying our best to have and impact and to do something that helps.”
She urged the public to “please stay home and don’t doubt the advice of the medical community; stay home and help us to manage this”.