Frontline workers ‘need help’

A Ministry of Health official scoping the Raiwaqa area to screen for Covid 19 symptoms while wearing full personal protective equipment. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

People who are at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19 in Fiji need to undergo psychological counselling.

This according to mental health specialist Peter Schultz, the founder of Operation Foundation.

“Frontline workers live in the reality of increased risk of exposure, and the pressure to serve and protect the community,” he said.

“They will experience everything from exhaustion, burnout, compassion fatigue and in some cases, trauma.”

He said providing psychological support was critical for frontline workers during and after the pandemic.

He said worldwide there was a trend of employers engaging external providers to provide mental health support for their employees.

Meanwhile, Fiji’s renowned psychotherapist Selina Kuruleca said if untreated it could result in a demoralised, prone to illness and increased mental health issues.

She said research showed that across the world the psychological reactions of healthcare staff working with patients in several past viral outbreaks found more contact with sick patients were associated with greater psychological distress.

“Whereas adequate access to personal protective equipment (PPE), support from peers, and clear communication were associated with protection from distress,” Ms Kuruleca said.

In response, Ministry of Health and Medical Services permanent secretary Dr James Fong said the mental health cluster was sorting out the issue.

Meanwhile, St Giles Hospital refused to be approached for comments.

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