Roberta Smith finds out what it’s really like in the battle against COVID-19 from front-line workers Dr Nigel Yeoh (GP), Susanne Paterson (Healthline Triage Nurse), Maggie Paton (Social Worker) and Michele McMaster (Veterinarian).

What was the impact of COVID-19 in your workplace?

Nigel: After our reduced practice hours, we are even busier than pre-COVID! Lockdown lessened the usual winter illnesses but the delayed presentations and diagnoses of serious illnesses gives great concern.

Susanne: As a Healthline telephone triage nurse and clinical coach, I trained numerous new nurses to take calls reassuring people, assessing symptoms over the phone giving sound advice. The pandemic rapidly increased our call volumes.

Maggie: My work at Christchurch Women’s Hospital continued as usual during lockdown.

Michele: We worked 12-hour days, 7 days a week through lockdown. We split our team of 30 vets and nurses into 2 groups of 15 and we split the week up, so if one member in a group came down with the virus, the other group would be able to work.

Tell us about your involvement and any changes you had to make

Nigel: As the frontline of NZ’s COVID response, GPs along with primary care nurses did the bulk of community swabbing. It may seem like a relatively quick, straightforward swab in the nose but there’s a lot going on before and after to make that happen. GP practices had to make and adapt to those changes overnight. Our practice hired a Portacom as it is easily cleaned down after patients. Never forget the importance of hand hygiene!

Susanne: In this rapidly changing world, professionally, we need to be able to adapt swiftly. I had to change how I approached training. Priorities are different and technology is increasingly important.

Maggie: As a social worker in a general medicine and stroke ward, I worked with patients and families ensuring there was appropriate support at home or for the process of moving into residential care. I then joined the women’s social work team at the hospital supporting pregnant women and those experiencing family violence, grief or loss. Visitor restrictions meant more phone calls to families and less face to face.

Michele: Throughout Lockdown we were able to see pets in need and were allowed to vaccinate puppies and kittens. There were also referral eye cases and surgeries that couldn’t wait. With restricted client access, staff in full PPE collected the pet from our carpark. A telemedicine consultation followed before the animal was examined, a treatment plan formulated and the owner called to discuss. Drugs and food were left outside our door for clients to collect.

How can we pray for you?

Nigel: For health and protection for all those facing uncertainty and worry.

Susanne: For wisdom to see the right priorities and for peace.

Maggie: For families struggling with physical separation. For community organizations supporting for families.

Michele: For all within the Veterinary profession.