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NCRHA Psychiatric Unit supports staff and patients during pandemic; 24 new cases today

The Ministry of Health has reported 24 new positive Covid-19 cases. That brings the total reported infections to 5,798 since March. The death toll stands at 111 since yesterday’s reported fatality.

Currently, there are 44 patients in hospital, with a further 28 in step-down facilities and 304 in state quarantine facilities.

Below, read how the North Central Regional Health Authority is providing psychological support for its staff on the frontline of the pandemic. The following release was submitted to Wired868 from the office of the chief executive officer of the NCRHA:

Photo: Medical staff fix their PPE gear.
(Copyright New Indian Express)

The North Central Regional Authority (NCRHA) has established a mental health care programme to support its workers as they continue to lead in the fight against Covid-19. Health care work at any time is stressful. Globally, it is recognised that there is a need to ‘urgently increase investment in services for mental health or risk a massive increase in mental health conditions’.

Prior to the pandemic, the NCRHA had established a psychologist-led Stress Relief Centre for staff at the Authority, where persons could walk into without referral, without any prerequisite criteria, to access the service. This service was later extended to the public. However, according to the head of psychiatric services at the NCRHA, Professor Gerard Hutchinson, with the advent of Covid-19, it was discovered that given the exigencies of the job, staff needed more direct support than what had been initially offered through the centre.

“Because we recognised the mental health issues that staff might face in general, was magnified due to Covid, we acknowledged that the services we were offering would have to be extended. Services in general, depend on people coming to access them, but what we are now doing for staff at our various sites—Couva Hospital, Caura Hospital, Arima Hospital, and EWMSC—is that we are going to them,” Professor Hutchinson said.

A team of seven phycologists and six social workers make scheduled daily visits to the various NCRHA outlets to meet with staff members to discuss their concerns, not just about work, but also how work may be affecting their personal lives.

Photo: Nurses of the mental health unit of the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA)

“We engage persons at all levels within the facility—doctors, nurses, ward maids, patient escorts, stores workers, the entire range of staff, anyone in the facility. We meet and speak with them to hear what are their issues and concerns. In doing that, we developed a model of group sessions, and we have been able to zero in on what may be affecting them in general, as well as specific to Covid, and that is on the first level.

“Arising out of the group sessions, if we find that there were any really pressing matters, based on what workers may have discussed, we will then arrange for persons to be seen individually. Further, coming out of the personalised sessions, staff members who may be in difficult situations, for whatever reasons—they may have experienced a trauma with the death of a colleague, or something very personal at home—we then identify resources to get them through or past that existing reality,” Prof Hutchinson said.

Since the outreach programme began, over 100 persons have been seen in group sessions. CEO of the NCRHA, Mr Davlin Thomas, said the Mental Health Care Programme is just another level in the scaffolding that the NCRHA continues to construct in and around staff and patient care, as the NCRHA continues its engagement of Covid-19.

“It is a holistic approach to engaging the Covid-19 pandemic. The wellbeing of our staff is paramount. We deal with issues that affect them so that they, in turn, can continue to be effective caregivers,” Thomas said. “Our teams of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and mental health nurses, are the scaffolding that will support the holistic wellbeing of our staff and patients during a time when resilience is critical to the continuity of the system.”

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