Nurse on front line of Covid-19 crisis

Nurse Neil Meiring

Groote Schuur Hospital nurse Neil Meiring has volunteered to be part of the hospital’s Covid-19 ward, which opened at the end of March.

Nurse Meiring, 55, from Kalksteenfontein, says he is practising calmness and composure while treating Covid-19 patients.

He previously worked in the outpatient department and has 25 years of experience as a nurse.

“I volunteered because I wanted to know more about the virus even if it is a challenge, I wanted to be there to take care of patients,” he said.

Nurse Meiring says the Covid-19 patients are tested at various centres and referred to the hospital for treatment.

These patients are isolated in a room and taken care of by nursing staff and doctors who follow strict rules when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as aprons, gloves and masks.

They wear a new set of PPE every time they go into the room, whether to feed or provide medication to the patient, and discard it in a prescribed bin when they leave. They also continuously sanitise their hands.

Nurse Meiring is seeing new Covid-19 patients on a daily basis and he says it’s important for the hospital staff to build trust with the patient.

“They are being nursed alone in a room in isolation and that is not easy for them, so we as nursing staff and medical officers need to make it comfortable for these patients,” he said.

The hospital has seen an average of 10 new cases of Covid-19 a day since the ward opened.

They also advised the Covid-19 patients to wear a mask when others are around.

“Whenever nurses or medical staff come into a room (the patient must) wear a mask, if they go to a toilet they must wear a mask, they can’t walk around freely without masks the way other hospital patients in different wards can walk around,” he said.

Though the patients are allowed to use their smartphones, tablets and laptops, only they can handle it and it has to be sprayed with disinfectant.

Nurse Meiring says they encounter many patients who are emotional or aggressive because they are afraid of the disease and fear the unknown.

“We nurse human beings and what they need from us is love and support,” he said.

He also urges the public to treat people who have been sick with Covid-19 as human beings and to respect them.

Nurse Meiring says the principles of nursing still apply while working in the Covid-19 unit.

He says the main difference is how they work with the PPE and how they need to continually check if the patient has a mask on before they can enter a room.

After all these years, Nurse Meiring still enjoys nursing.

He says in his first five years on the job he wasn’t sure if he wanted to do it but now he can’t see himself doing anything else.

He stills takes pleasure in seeing patients getting discharged from hospital, though in the case of Covid-19, the patients must self-isolate for 14 days after they have been treated at the hospital before they can integrate with their family or friends.

The hospital will keep in touch with the patients and ask them questions to see if they are healthy or not.

On his days off, Nurse Meiring likes reading and watching television, and he enjoys walking to the shop to buy his essential items.

As he is always wearing his PPE when working with Covid-19 patients, he is allowed to stay with his family.

Hospital spokesperson, Alaric Jacobs, says if any staff member shows symptoms of Covid-19 they will be tested and placed into isolation immediately.

Nurse Meiring also worked in the hospital when they dealt with swine flu and cholera.

“I believe that we can overcome Covid-19 as well though we will need everyone’s support,” he said.