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Precious Gems 62 - Each so precious!
30 June 2021

I endeavour to meet every staff at least once a quarter during my skip level meetings. For the clinical teams, I meet the five satellites and the Star PALS team over six fortnights, allowing me to meet them once a quarter. Over the last couple of months, I noticed that all the teams seemed jaded, fatigued and not as cheerful as before. But not a single member complained nor grumbled about it.

All our client facing staff have over the last year and a half, been working in extremely difficult circumstances, due to COVID-19. Initially, with the multitude of advisories coming in fast and furious, the team was energetic enough to change processes quickly. During those days, many were worried about their safety, their families’ safety and their patients’ safety. We had a first time swabbing exercise and were pleased that everyone tested negative. After about six to eight months of adjustments, things began to look up, with community cases coming down.

At the beginning of this year, we also managed to get over 80% of our staff vaccinated and we all felt that we managed to get the hang of things. We were able to ease off on some of the more stringent protocols. A couple of months later, community cases started creeping up and it was back to “heightened alert” for everyone. Our clinical team was able to get back to previous safety measures easily and everyone did it without complaint. However, I could sense a level of weariness setting in and many wondered when this difficult situation would ever end.

One might think that it is easier for home team clinicians to handle the situation, since we were not going into the hospitals. But if we all think about it more carefully, when we go into our patients’ homes, every location is an unknown. There are no stringent checks or disinfection measures in each home. We will ask the usual declaration questions, but we have no guarantee that the families will answer them correctly. Our staff have to don Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and doff them before each visit and in the discomfort of the humid outdoors. And when we visit our patients in the Nursing Homes, some nursing homes request that we don’t visit, some will set up a separate room for us, some will insist we take a swab, some ask us to do video conferencing. Each has their own protocols and we need to conform.

Nonetheless, our team faithfully visit our patients, with much compassion and professionalism. We also have a team, including volunteers, called the Vigil Angels, who will visit our patients near the end of their lives, to help caregivers give the patients a nice bath, provide aromatherapy, play soothing music and just be with the patients and their family. This in spite of heightened alerts, because we know our patients and caregivers need our support.

I know that it is really difficult for each of you. What I have described above is just the tip of the iceberg of the many inconveniences and difficulties that you all face. This COVID-19 pandemic is likely to become an endemic and we will have to work differently from a year and a half ago, for the foreseeable future. I would like all our staff to know that despite all your difficulties and stress, we will support you as best we can. I am grateful and appreciate all your hardwork, as do our patients and their caregivers. You are encouraged to highlight any concerns to your supervisors or to me, at any time or during our skip level meetings. We are in this together! Jiayou! Keep going! Or as they say in Korean dramas "Fwighting"!