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Doctor volunteers to fight Covid-19

“To have the chance to see and learn from patients affected by the pandemic at the most extreme end of the spectrum has been a great personal learning opportunity.” So says Dr Sashen Naidoo, a medical officer who has volunteered at Worcester Regional Hospital since April 2020.

Naidoo’s plans to commence a second contract working as a cruise ship doctor was derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and after introspection in the first week of lockdown he made the decision to volunteer at his former place of employment, Worcester Hospital.

“Once lockdown had started all plans that had been made to resume work were thrown out the window. The summation of how I perceived the pandemic during the initial stages could best be described as unpredictable.

Having worked in both the state and private sector in South African health care as well as abroad, a realisation came to Naidoo, that in a country where the health-care system has always been under pressure it was going to be very difficult to squeeze more hard work out of people, when everyone had already been giving 110% to begin with.

Having visited a few colleagues at the hospital and hearing how busy things were getting, he decided to offer his support.

“The decision to volunteer to help out was a relatively easy one for a few reasons. Having trained my whole career for this kind of situation I wouldn’t have been able to sit at home during lockdown knowing I could make a small difference. I’ve always enjoyed being part of the action, and it was predicted there was a lot of action to come.”

“Dr Naidoo made himself available as a volunteer to help Worcester Hospital during the Covid-19 outbreak,” Elbie Vosloo, CEO of Worcester Hospital, said. “He has been delivering an excellent and selfless service.

“He has helped in the Emergency Centre, Intensive Care Unit and in the Covid-19 wards. We are extremely grateful for his generous and unselfish service delivery. He is an excellent clinician and a wonderful team member to have on board.”

Naidoo says in the initial phases of the pandemic there was very little evidence-based knowledge of how to approach Covid-19 from multiple facets. But the challenge of something new and unknown has also been incredibly stimulating for him and a driving factor to keep learning, evolving and staying in tune with how things progress.

He finds the best place to learn is in the clinical setting and what better place is there than in the trenches at the forefront.

“Covid-19 has definitely improved our practise by improving our awareness of respiratory illness, its spread and the meticulousness one needs to apply when confronted with it,” Naidoo said. “I think this can only be a positive learning experience.”

Even though the number of positive cases in the Western Cape and the Cape Winelands has declined, he emphasises everyone must be extra careful now to ensure future increases of Covid-19 infections are not seen.

“There needs to be an acceptance of responsibility to protect and care others around us,” Naidoo says. “Wear your mask at all times when you leave your house, keep your distance from others, and wash your hands often.”

Asked if he would recommend volunteering to any of his peers in the health sector, Naidoo replies: “Emphatically, yes!

“Working without a monetary motivator enables one truly to evaluate what one loves and enjoys about one’s work. Everything is a lot simpler and less stressful as a result.”

His message to those affected by the pandemic is that it can be an incredibly tough and stressful time.

“I want to reassure those affected, that all of us working in the health system are doing everything we can to get people through this.”

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