Muscat: The determination of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff who are helping fight the spread of COVID-19 in Oman is difficult to describe, say medical practitioners in the country.
The commitment required, whether it is going above and beyond their duty to take care of patients, making the most of telehealth services to help people who are unable to come to hospital, and encourage people to take COVID vaccines to bring about an end to the pandemic, has seen healthcare workers come under great psychological, social, and personal pressure.
The pandemic, now in its second year, has taken a great toll on them. Despite the challenges, teamwork and putting up a unified front against the coronavirus have helped them in continuing to provide critical care to those who need it most. Their tireless efforts to keep people safe, and unwavering commitment towards the entire country is a matter of pride for everyone.
“Whether it is saving a life, making sure a person’s condition has not worsened, or the care they require after stabilisation, healthcare workers have a great determination to do and give everything that is needed,” said Dr Mia bint Salem Al Mahramiya, an anaesthesiologist and intensive care specialist at the Royal Hospital. “Working in a COVID-19 department is quite a different experience by all standards, because of the difficulty in treating those infected.”
“Every day, we need to contact the families of the patients who are here, and inform them of their condition and the treatment they are to undergo,” she added. “I wonder if it is possible for someone to imagine how it is to deal with the patients and their families, who place hope and belief in us that we will provide them news that reassures them. Sadly, this is not always the case – the reality is often different.”
There is, she added, a tendency for medical professionals working in COVID wards to show plenty of concern over each other’s health, because of the fear of being infected with the virus from the patients. A lesson they’ve all learned during their time taking care of coronavirus patients is that there is no room for complacency when it comes to things that matter.
While the arrival of the vaccine has reassured many healthcare workers, they have still not abandoned the caution with which they operate in hospitals. “We now understand that every soul is precious,” said Al Mahramiya. “Preserving it is an obligation that must not be ridiculed or ignored.” Many healthcare workers deployed on the frontlines against the pandemic also thanked His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik for the support his government has provided them, so that they can continue to provide essential services to those who require them.
So that workers are not overwhelmed, and can focus on caring for those in critical condition, Dr Lamia bint Hussain Al Balushi, the Director of Disease Control at the Directorate General of Health Services, Muscat Governorate, asked people to continue to protect themselves from infection by taking the appropriate steps, such as mask wearing, hand hygiene, and social distancing.
She also asked people to not sow panic among communities by spreading rumours and false news, and requested them to take the COVID vaccine as soon as they are eligible to do so. Those who wish to receive updates on vaccine availability, or guidance over COVID precautions that need to be taken in certain circumstances, can call the information service at 1144.
“The main hall of the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex has been provided to us to set up a vaccination centre for people from Boushar and Seeb, thanks to the efforts of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth,” said Al Balushi. “Volunteers from the Oman Scouts and Guides have helped organise the entry and exit of the target vaccination groups to and from the stadium. Vaccination centres also receive large numbers of people who are eligible for their second dose.”
The sports complex aside, a number of locations across Muscat have been converted into vaccination centres. These include Sablah Muttrah for those in Muttrah and Muscat, the office of the Governor of Quriyat, and Quriyat health complex, for people in that part of the capital. These facilities were set up to account for more numbers of people signing up for the vaccines.
“Thank God that during the course of the campaign, we received a lot of concerted support from various sectors towards the Ministry of Health in making our vaccination efforts a success,” she said. Awareness campaigns to encourage people to vaccinate themselves turned out to be successful, after large turnouts of people from the targeted group were witnessed.
“At the start of the pandemic, there was no time to restructure our health system: the directorate continued to provide primary healthcare by delegating health centres to make these services available, as well as the new efforts needed to combat COVID-19,” she said. As part of efforts to stop the spread, teams responsible for epidemiological follow up, isolation of people who have had contact with COVID positive persons at home or at work, and monitoring people infected by the disease, have been set up.
“Among the most important programmes to have emerged because of their participation, is the rise of telehealth and digital health, as alternatives to communicate with patients, conduct follow-up, and provide primary health care services to them,” added Al Balushi.
Some healthcare workers assigned to the COVID wards did contract the disease, only to make a full recovery. Among them was Mohammed bin Shamis Al Jabri, a nurse at Al Nahda Hospital. His experience after testing positive for the disease made him understand the perspective of the patients who were suffering from the disease, who he treated on a day-to-day basis.
“After my infection, I received great moral and psychological support from my family and colleagues,” he said. “Once I recovered from the disease, I continued to work in the same department, because this experience increased my strength and determination to provide the necessary care for people. What my colleagues and I do is our sacred human duty.”
Adding to this, nurse Abdullah bin Khamis Al Balushi of the Royal Hospital said, “What preoccupies those working in the COVID wards is not acting as a source of transmission to anyone. Our task is a gift from god, so we have a tremendous responsibility to work with loyalty and sincerity.”