This is a detour post from my usual blogging remit to commentate on the Coronavirus pandemic. As a health care worker in France whose client group is at biggest risk – the elderly – my colleagues and I find ourselves suddenly pushed into unique and worrying challenges in a job which already had significant challenges to begin with.
I work in a multi-disciplinary team at a private French medical retirement home for 70+ elderly people. The residents have a range of pathologies which require around-the-clock care and specialist medical attention. For them, facing the risk of catching Coronavirus is a matter of life and death.
Report – Friday 13 March
Coronavirus. Extraordinary times. As I wrote this last night, the global death toll as caused by Covid-19 has just passed 5,000; President Donald Trump has declared a US state of emergency (after initially branding the epidemic a ‘hoax’; and the World Health Organization says Europe is now the centre of the pandemic.
At work. The situation is so fluid it might be fair to say we need diving equipment as well as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
Ten days back, when events (Italy aside) were relatively calm in Europe, our units were given the direction that all personnel and visitors had to wear surgical masks while on the premises. This lasted for only three days. Quite simply, due to the high number of traffic coming in and out of our units, our stock of masks ran out. The problem partially solved itself by the recent decision at French national level to ban all visits to retirement homes by non-professional staff. Still, good luck trying to find a mask right now.
Fortunately, to date, our units remain Coronavirus free. Aside from worrying that anyone might be currently incubating the virus, there is ‘officially’ no need to wear a mask unless you choose to (and if you can find one 😐).
Honestly though, the best way to avoid catching any germs at all is to wash your hands frequently and correctly…
I now pause this post briefly as I go and wash my hands…
In the past week, at a French national level, certain rules have been put into effect: 1) No visitors are allowed into retirement homes except health care professionals (a good decision). 2) School and university closures begin on Monday 16 March (a good decision). 3) Social gatherings are since limited from 1000 to 100 persons (a good decision).
Yesterday, we were given notice that all staff leave is cancelled until further notice, and that all staff (with exception to those who have to care for young children stopping at home due to school closures) needed to make themselves available for cover.
I have one child of school age. My wife is a teacher and has to abide by the same school closure rules, meaning she is available to give care at home to our son, while at the same time now having to perform her job remotely during a period when exams are coming up. The virus is affecting so many people on so many different levels.
For me, I will likely have to adapt my regular shifts and make myself available to cover some of the staff losses. We were given forms to complete stating the age of our children and if we were unable to work due to giving care at home. Worryingly, a good quarter of our staff have young children.
Question: Is it better to keep schools open and work with a full staff, or try and contain the virus by operating school closures and suffer inevitable staff shortages?
I think the school closures is sensible. Even if it means work for many of us is about to become harder.
Happy weekend! 🙂
I’ve just finished a routine stretch of three 10 hour shifts, and am now enjoying my weekend off. How much longer I will able to enjoy two days off in a row as from next week is going to be subject to an ever-fluid situation; to staff shortages, to planning, to how fast the virus continues to spread, and if it reaches our (so far) safe, little haven.
Beware of fake news, and any email scams offering advice and info about Coronavirus.
For the most accurate and up to date information regarding all aspects of Coronavirus, go to the World Health Organization website
Thanks for reading. Until next time, everyone stay safe.
Disclaimer. This report is meant to offer an overview of the fluid impact upon a care worker in the French medical system. No names of any persons or institutions are given, and the reportage here concerns decisions made at a French national level which is available to the public at any time. No breach of confidentiality or professional workplace standards is made or implied. Any health advice stated here is exactly the same as that given by the World Health Oraganization public advice pages