Beyond the applause: How to truly honour essential and frontline workers.

In the early morning, a nurse walks quickly, head bent, heading to the hospital. In the distance, the creaking of a garbage collection truck announces its arrival. Sanitation workers fling bags of rubbish into the cavernous opening. The mechanism closes, swallowing all evidence of human waste. In the supermarket, workers pack bags of groceries for those who prefer not to venture into the world of the virus.

These are some of the essential and frontline workers of the pandemic: security guards, first responders, farmers, delivery drivers, doctors, nurses. In the early days of the pandemic, the world applauded them as a way to boost their spirits through the swollen feet, scars from the utilization of personal protective equipment and the challenges of almost unstoppable loss of life.

Today, essential and frontline workers need more than our applause. They need us to raise our arms for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Protect our health and care workers – It is critical!

PAHO/WHO Director, Dr Carissa F Etienne points out that “the number of health workers who have been infected with COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean has risen to at least 1.8 million. Some 9,000 have died from the virus – the majority of them female nurses.”

Infection cases are surging in Trinidad and Tobago. Health officials warn that 90-95% of persons needing intensive care are not vaccinated. Additionally, the rise of infections and continued spread of the Delta variant have almost eliminated much needed breaks for health care workers. PAHO/WHO is increasingly concerned about signs of “pandemic-induced stress, anxiety and depression” within the health care sector.

As we grapple with a health care system in distress, let us honour frontline workers by taking COVID-19 regulations seriously and get vaccinated.

6am – The Intensive Care Unit is a scene of complex activities as another critically ill patient arrives. The Nurse wearing her personal protective equipment, exchanges a weary smile and with renewed energies nods to her colleague and walks towards the bed. Another day in the battle against COVID-19 begins…

Vaccinate today….live tomorrow!

Did you know?

– Modern nursing practices in the Caribbean started in the 1850s with the creation of public hospitals and the introduction of nursing care providers.

– The Port-of-Spain General Hospital was formerly known as the Colonial Hospital. Opened in 1858, it was a two-storeyed building with six wards and 68 staff members. A special ward to isolate and treat infectious cases was opened in 1896.

– 2021 has been declared International Year of Health and Care Workers by the World Health Organisation (WHO).