Tribute for nurses who lost lives during pandemic

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has paid tribute to the nurses who lost their lives when they became the first line of defence to protect South Africans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let’s remember these fallen heroes and heroines with pride because they rolled up their sleeves and confronted the ever-mutating pandemic during the various waves,” Dhlomo said on Wednesday.

He made these remarks during the special occasion of the unveiling of the Wall of Remembrance erected by the South African Nursing Council in honour of nurses who lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When most employers allowed their workers choose to work from home due to fear of contracting and spreading Coronavirus during the peak of the pandemic, unfortunately South African Nightingales or nurses just like other essential workers, did not have that luxury to work from home due to the nature of their job. They had only one option that is to face the hungry lion,” he said.

The Deputy Minister said nurses are often the unsung and underappreciated heroes and heroines of the health care sector, despite what they endure during difficult times like the unforgettable COVID-19 era.

He described the period as one that was filled with uncertainty, anxiety, loss of hope and fatigue.

“There is no doubt that the pandemic hit the country when it was least expected, when the readiness of health facilities to manage such an overwhelming pandemic was a challenge, especially in rural districts of the country.

“However, nurses found themselves at the forefront of demonstrating a leadership role in crisis management. The four-fold role of professional nurses was highly visible during this period. Utilising a multi-disciplinary, nurse led approach became the best solution in the effective management of COVID-19 pandemic,” Dhlomo said.

The Deputy Minister said nurses made sacrifices under difficult and impossible conditions to save patients' lives at the cost of their own health and safety.

“They took care or responded to the needs of the patients while following the rules, regulations, ethics and standard of nursing, while working in the isolation units or intensive care units with COVID-19 patients, nurses had to ensure provision of quality care to the patients while taking care of themselves.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health and well-being of nurses and other health care workers, as they treat patients, they also grappled with their own heightened exposure to COVID-19 infection, loss of colleagues and patients they cared for, which resulted in mental health stress,” the Deputy Minister said.

He said burnout became a daily reality for them during the pandemic as there was an increasing concern about the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder amongst them.

“Thus, we have got the responsibility to ensure that supporting the psychological wellbeing of the nurses and other health workers continues to be our priority beyond the pandemic,” Dhlomo said. –