Cape Town doctor describes her day in a Covid-19 ward

To make the day’s work easier, the group makes a list of which patient needs what and works their way through it. There are treatments and tests to see to, and new admissions to handle.

Often a comorbidity, such as diabetes, is diagnosed only when patients come in with Covid-19 symptoms, so their admission to the ward may involve the management of several diseases simultaneously.

Transferring patients out of the ward takes time. In a ward with 25 to 30 beds, as many as eight or nine patients may be transferred on a given day. Moulton makes calls and sends messages for referrals and transfers, and follows the necessary processes to pass on all the important information.

“You’re trying to get as many people out and get them home if they’re doing well, or transfer them to another ward because you know there’s a full emergency room of patients downstairs waiting.”

On a good day, Moulton may get time for a break. She runs to her car and sits on it, afraid to sit inside and contaminate it. Her lunches are energy bars or bananas, anything she doesn’t need to touch too much. A few sips of water, and it’s back to the wards. These short breaks mean she has to go through the full process of taking the PPE off and putting it on again. Some days are so busy that she forgets to go to the bathroom.

The shift ends after a second ward round and when the handover to the next shift has been prepared.

Moulton carefully takes off her PPE to be washed or thrown away.

In her reflection in the mirror she sees marks from the mask and visor. She sanitises her car key, pen and cellphone.

At home, she leaves her “corona shoes” at the door, and heads straight to the shower for a thorough wash.

“Even though you’ve changed out of PPE, have taken off the hospital clothes and put on clean clothes, you’re still worried.”

Her clothes go into the washing machine, and anything else she may have touched is sanitised.