RMI health providers on Covid-19

Majuro hospital nurse Gina Anuntak takes the temperature of a person entering Majuro hospital for services recently, one of a number of new practices instituted in the Covid-19 environment. The RMI has no confirmed cases of Covid-19 locally. Photo: Eve Burns.


“I love taking care of people, it’s a really rewarding job,” said Gina Anuntak an outpatient department nurse at Majuro hospital.

Anuntak told the Journal that she feels ready for when the coronavirus does find its way into our islands. She firmly believes that the training they had in preparation for the coronavirus has helped her because now she knows how to properly puts on her personal protective equipment (PPEs).

“We have taken preventive measures by marking which chairs patients can and cannot sit on to encourage social distancing,” Anuntak said. She described what the people providing healthcare services need to help make this Covid-19 battle easier if it ever comes on island: “Team work and be patient because even if we’re short of nurses we still got this, we just need people to calm down so we can do our jobs protecting and helping people.”

“Truthfully I’m scared, but I am ready to help my people,” said Elli Laikdrik, an outpatient nurse, when asked by the Journal what it’s like to be in the frontline of an upcoming battle.

Laikdrik said that she is aware that Covid-19 is not easy to stop. It’s spreading and we don’t know if we will make it out alive or not but she would rather calm people down and have them understand than having to worry about her own life.

“I need people to understand that this virus is not a joke and I want people to abide by what the Ministry of Health and Human Services (MOHHs) recommends people to do to help prevent the virus from spreading,” she said.

“The hospital needs the people’s help,” said Shra Kedi, the hospital’s non-communicable disease coordinator. She told the Journal she is not seeing reaction from the public that shows people are taking this seriously. “People should start practicing hand washing,” she said.

During the Executive Leadership Conference, Ebon Mayor Marie Milne stated that there should be a practice lock down and this is something that Kedi thinks is a great idea — practice makes perfect. Kedi commented that people should not look only to the hospital to do all the work. Information and awareness have been given, and people should do their part to help the hospital by abiding by what the government is telling the public.

Dr. Aina Garstang, clinical director for the nurse practitioner intern-training program and a public health physician, told the Journal that from her observation the outreach awareness that Ministry of Health and Human Service has conducted is successful. The audiences understand more about the disease and are now familiar with the symptoms. People have expressed concern as to why would we open up our borders when we know that the disease is deadly and there are many diabetics here who are especially at high risk for the coronavirus.

“We shared the health conditions to the community when we do our outreach, letting them know what is expected at each condition,” said Garstang. “Regardless we are not ready for this disease. They talk lot about ventilators but that is just one single part of managing severe cases.”

“Every agency should come up with their plans,” said Garstang as she offered examples. “The latest team that was discharged from Arrak campus quarantine went well. However there are gaps that could have made the process smoother from day one to day 14. This includes human resources. The reporting was not in a coordinated process from the ports, MOHHS, the National Disaster Committee, etc. I think we could have done it much better.”

Garstang told the Journal that there is no housekeeping for the quarantine facility in Arrak, the nurses and the nurse practitioner team leader have been the ones washing the beddings and cleaning the whole facility once the quarantine group are discharged. This adds on work for the medical team. The team has to carry medical duties and as well as housekeeping and managing waste.

“We will need the a labor pool list at the National Disaster Office,” Garstang said. “This team can include people that are not working, high school students who are working at the MOHHS for their practicum and housekeeping from hotel staff that are no longer working. This is one team that should have gone to Arrak to clean while the nurses complete their reports and go home.”

Garstang also said the ministry has doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, medical assistants, physicians and other specialties available here — those are on their labor pool strategic plans. MOHHS will train the team that will be working on our site, the training will be under proper management and infection control and they would be considered as the reserve team and activated when needed.

When the Journal asked Dr. Garstang if she thinks all preparations that have been done are enough to keep the virus out, she answered: “We can’t really keep the virus out if we open the borders and we definitely can’t keep our borders locked forever. Vaccines are not close (to being developed), there are still no medications. If the Cabinet decides to open the borders, then we still need to continue with the quarantine site, set up more screening sites, and make it mandatory for everyone to wear a cotton face mask as practiced in Japan.”

She said training on putting a face mask on and taking it off is also critical.
“Hand-washing buckets should continue and the message of stay home if ill should be embedded in everyone’s mind starting now and not waiting,” she said. “If prevention methods are taken seriously, we can contain the disease from spreading fast.”


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