COVID-19 is an invisible enemy being fought by doctors who also happen to be mothers
We spoke to Dr Janet Chepchumba, a doctor and a mother working at Kenyatta National Hospital about being a mother and asked her a few questions about the pandemic Kenya is now facing.
What are your credentials?
I’m a doctor, qualified in 2013. I have been practising medicine since then. I’m currently a postgraduate student studying internal medicine (and still practising).
What does internal medicine entail? And how does your day to day look like?
It entails managing adult patients who have diseases affecting their internal organs e.g. brain, lungs, heart, kidneys, and also infectious diseases. Basically, patients who don’t need surgery, and are not pregnant. We are to adults what a paediatrician is to children.
I see patients admitted in the wards at least 3 times a week from 9 am to 1 pm. The other 2 mornings I see patients in clinic follow up. The afternoons are spent reviewing the results of tests ordered in the morning rounds.
Patients with cough, fever, muscle pains and difficulty in breathing are typically seen by my kind of a doctor
From your explanation above, it’s safe to assume that you are coming into contact with patients suspected of having COVID-19, is this the case?
It’s a real possibility. Patients with cough, fever, muscle pains and difficulty in breathing are typically seen by my kind of a doctor. However, I don’t work in the government designated units that manage COVID-19 patients and their contacts.
I’m assuming, either way, you’re still taking precautions? What are some of the precautions you’re taking?
Despite having generally fewer patients currently, probably because of the general fear in the community, I spend the same amount of time in the hospital because of the precautions that have to be taken.
It’s unfair to expose health care workers to such an infectious disease without appropriate protection
Could you probably explain why COVID-19 is being taken seriously around the world and why the potential exponential growth is worrying?
COVID-19 is being taken seriously because it’s highly infectious. People without symptoms can travel and transmit it. It has an estimated mortality rate of 3% which can be quite a number of people if it infects many people, with worse outcomes seen in people with a compromised immunity. It has the potential to overwhelm a health care system as we’ve seen in Italy and several patients require intensive care support which is usually limited.
I’m most worried about getting infected and spreading it to my children
There have been discussions online about nurses, medics etc, quitting their jobs as well as refusing to handle patients. What’s your take on this?
I think the issue we have is the availability of personal protective equipment. It would be quite unfortunate for a health care worker to contract COVID-19 or any other infectious disease while attending to patients.
Healthcare workers should handle all patients, provided they are well equipped. When you lose healthcare workers you will have no one to take care of the sick.
It’s unfair to expose health care workers to such an infectious disease without appropriate protection.
As a mother who also happens to know how infectious diseases spread what are you most worried about with regards to COVID-19?
I’m most worried about getting infected and spreading it to my children, spouse and house manager.
Kenya should learn to improve its health facilities
How are you educating your kids about COVID-19 while still ensuring they keep up with their curriculum from home?
I have been reemphasizing all the common preventive practices that the government has been pushing. They have timetables for morning and afternoon study time, indoor playtime and time to read storybooks.
What do you hope Kenya learns from this in terms of infectious diseases and our preparedness to fight it?
Kenya should learn to improve its health facilities e.g. expanding general hospital bed space, isolation facilities, ICU beds, emergency services, employ more health care workers and provide protective wear all the time.
Continuing with regular hand washing, coughing etiquette social distance even after COVID-19 is conquered will go a long way in preventing the spread of common infections in our set up like tuberculosis and abdominal infections.
If there’s one thing you could tell Kenyans, what would it be?
Obey the government’s directives.