As the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate in South Africa and across the world, COVID-19 fatigue has set in, causing many to switch off and not follow the news as closely.

While it is our reality, the pandemic is even more real for healthcare workers who must face sick, dying patients day in and day out. This is the reality of being a doctor on the frontline.

Dr Zane Stenning, a second year intern at Groote Schuur Hospital explains that his experience has been anything but easy.

“The second wave has definitely been way worse, markedly more severe presentations of patients, and younger patients getting tubed,” he told the Heroes of Groote Schuur Facebook page.

“We have criteria now for ICU based on all sorts of things. If you are triaged red, it means that you are a high priority ICU patient. If you triage orange, green or yellow, you have a lesser priority for ICU. Currently because there are no beds available, we are only accepting red patients to ICU and even still some red patients aren’t getting accepted.”

The pandemic has changed the way these teams operate. Interns are giving input for roles they typically wouldn’t play and being exposed to the ICU and who gets to be admitted.

Making that decision is one of the hardest things, but it must be done because of limited space.

“It’s taxing though. Because when you’re standing at the bedside and they say this patient’s not for ICU you know that you’re the one that has to phone the family and tell them and that’s never easy. Especially now with the younger patients, it’s so shocking for the families.”

He continues: “It’s very taxing – physically, emotionally, definitely. And there’s no getting around it because the next day is work again. We get one weekend off a month so we’re physically coming to work every day, and having long days. And busy days – like we just took a patient to ICU now so that’s a whole intubation, the whole team is there, the patient has crashed, it’s time to tube them, so it’s running round pushing beds up and down to ICU and on a bad day we do like 5 or 6 of those if there’s space in ICU.”

Stenning says some patients have been on high flow oxygen for two months, showing the severity of this virus.

“ICU is critical. Our ward is full all the time. As soon as there’s a bed available it’s filled.”

As a personal escape from the madness, Stenning enjoys the simple pleasure of riding his motorbike or running in the morning before work.

“I’ve enjoyed being a doctor more and more during Covid. With the increased responsibility you come to realise that, actually, your patients are better off if you are there. You want to be there for your patients so that you can advocate for them as best you can,” he says

“It’s hectic. And there are still educated people out there saying they won’t take the vaccine. I’d take one in each limb if I could.”

The healthcare workers at Groote Schuur are working tirelessly to keep our family members alive every day. They need the right equipment to deliver a high standard of care, which is why the hospital has launched its Bed Fundraising Appeal.

The hospital needs to replace 84 beds in its Intensive and High Care Units with electronic beds to allow for the optimum care of patients. The total cost for each bed and the accompanying monitor is R105 000 — bringing the total refurbishment cost to R8 820 000.

If you would like to help the hospital reach its goal, please consider a donation towards this cause — any amount will help. Visit to donate.

Picture: Facebook / Heroes of Groote Schuur

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