5 June 2020

The World Health Organization WHO has launched an app to support health workers around the world. Picture: World Health Organisation

Pretoria - A healthcare worker support network has been established by the SA Depression and Anxiety Group in partnership with other medical and mental-health associations.

The Healthcare Workers Care Network already has over 500 volunteer health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, general practitioners, registered counsellors, and social workers. Their focus is to provide help and support to all healthcare workers.

Psychiatrist Dr Antoinette Miric said healthcare professionals were extremely worried about their lives and families and were unable to look after themselves.

Miric founded the Mental Health Care for Covid-19 Carers in Gauteng with colleagues in March, in association with the SA Society of Psychiatrists.

“Healthcare workers are not used to reaching out for support for themselves. Still, I hope that this pandemic helps them to realise that they need to look after themselves first, physically and emotionally, before they are able to look after others.

“Looking after oneself is not natural for the healthcare worker - it is in their nature to help selflessly.”

She said the network offered all healthcare workers across the public and private sectors free support, pro bono therapy, resources, training and psychoeducation.

Convener of the SA Society of Anaesthesiologists' Wellness in Anaesthesia Support Group, Dr Caroline Lee said it was critically important at present to be as supportive as possible to health workers.

She said they often worked without adequate equipment and were undervalued.

SA Medical Association general manager Dr Vusumuzi Nhlapo said they were excited to be part of the network and had been working on similar initiatives for years.

He said the advent of the Covid-19 crisis had pushed them to fast-track programmes to ensure health workers did not burn out at a time where they would be needed most.

“A survey led by the SA Depression and Anxiety Group was held among doctors, and the consensus that came from that survey was that there is a dire need for mental-health services among doctors. We are looking forward to learning and strengthening the partnerships we have,” he said.

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Author: Chelsea Ntuli