How Covid-19 has changed the way paramedics now work
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Cape Town - Being at the forefront of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic brought a lot of change to the way paramedics operate.
They had to change the way they work not only for their patients, but also to protect their loved ones at home.
For ER24 advanced life support paramedic Tao Carstens being a paramedic is like being a duck - calm on the top, but paddling frantically at the bottom.
Originally she wanted to study medicine, but unfortunately did not get in. Little did she know that she would find her passion and love in paramedics.
She said unfortunately with this job some things are beyond their control, despite how many interventions were performed to save someone.
The Weekend Argus went on a ride-along with her for the day, with her shift starting at 5.30am through to 5.30pm - but sometimes longer.
We went on about five calls with her, and after each one the ambulance had to be cleaned thoroughly in case the patient was Covid-19 positive.
They are very thorough in making sure all touch surfaces are wiped down with alcohol; they even have bleach if needed.
“One of the biggest challenges working during Covid-19 is getting rid of little habits. Like you know how many times a day you touch your face; the masks help with that now. Like if you need to do something and your pen ends up in your mouth. We used to clean the ambulance. Nothing compared to how we do things now. A full clean takes about an hour and a half. It means we are stood down for the time that we are cleaning. This is not with every call though. Now, everything is packed away and not exposed. This saves us time. One person goes in with the patient and the other paramedic immediately starts cleaning,” Carstens said.
Cleaning entails changing lines, wiping everything down with alcohol not once, but twice, and opening everything up so there is ventilation.
She added that during this period it has been hard working with the anxieties of Covid-19, but paramedics did it because it was their passion and calling.
“Sometimes we do check how a patient is doing after we have made the drop. If we go back we would, but sometimes it’s so bad that I just don’t want to know. I don’t,” she said.
Carstens’s partner, who did not want his name in the paper, said this is a job where you are constantly learning.
“Each time you get to a patient and their heart is not beating, and you manage to make it beat again... it's those moments that you never forget. It’s about helping people. People won’t remember what you did, but will always remember how you made them feel in that time you were with them,” he said.
Melomed 24 advanced life support paramedic Baderodien Ragman said he got Covid-19 when the first wave hit, and was hospitalised.
“I didn’t want to be in the hospital. I told myself if I have to die it must be at home with my family. My wife nursed me to health at home. I think I have overcome the stress of Covid-19 now. It is part of the job. I sympathise with the people who have had or have the symptoms, because I know about it,” he said.
Intermediate life support paramedic Fodlique Slinger said it took some time adjusting to wearing the masks and suits in the beginning, but now it is just a part of it. He lost his mother to Covid-19, and said he just feels blessed when his family and others get to see another day in these times.
He recalled his first critically-ill patient from the Delft area that had Covid-19, and was not sure if that patient was going to make it. What hit him badly was when children started contracting it as well.
All the medics said they dealt with real, life-threatening emergencies during the waves of the pandemic. Now there are emergencies, but sometimes people abuse the service by calling to be taken for doctor’s appointments, or giving false information over the phone so an ambulance comes faster.
The paramedics said they worked according to a triage system, but that since the easing of the lockdown levels, they had seen an increase in trauma cases.