Groote Schuur nurses: ‘This place steals a lot away from you…’

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“Emotionally drained” are the words two nurses, who work in Groote Schuur Hospital‘s C27 ICU COVID Ward, have used to describe how they feel. “I’m emotionally drained from yesterday and now I have to face today,” Verna Collins and Judith Parenzee said. “We are full full full.”

News24 reports that the pair’s reality – in their own words – was shared on the Heroes of Groote Schuur Facebook page. The posts are written by the hospital’s communications team from interviews with their staff.

News24 interviewed the two nurses, whose work day lasts 12 hours. “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,” they are quoted as saying.

“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.”

News24 reports that their frank account of working in a ward, which used to have six beds but now has 18, was shared more than 3,000 times by Thursday afternoon. “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 nurses said.

“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.

Family members now video call, they said. “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.”

The workload means they are unable to connect with their patients, News24 reports Collins and Parenzee said. “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 paralyse and sedate the patients with medication because we need to protect their lungs.”


Full News24 report


Heroes of Groote Schuur Facebook page

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