COVID-19: Responsibilities of frontline healthcare workers

As pandemic worsens, health care workers are at the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak response. As such, occupational risk needs to be critically assessed and precautions taken a lot more seriously than ever before. 


Signs and symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, SARS and sometimes death. Standard guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include frequent washing of hands using alcohol-based gel or soap and water; covering the nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or disposable tissue when coughing and sneezing; and avoiding close contact with anyone that has a fever and cough.


1. Look after yourself and family:

The nation appreciates the risks key workers take on a daily basis as they leave their families to fight for the greater societal good. Employers are constantly taking precautions to protect locums. At this time, it is essential that you have your own lists of precautionary measures you adhere to, protect yourselves. Practices who are lacking on this front can be reasonably consulted with to ensure they are providing safety measures and procedures to protect key staffs. On arrival make sure patients information posters are displayed, on windows, the medicines counter by any patient touch screen booking-in, waiting areas and at patient access points to clinical areas.

2. Treat patients with respect, compassion, and dignity:

As much as you want to protect yourself this pandemic period. It’s also important to put your patients into consideration. Not all patients you encounter has the COVID-19, some are there to get treatment for other medical conditions. Private consultation should be avoided at these times in the community environment. Telephone consultations can be arranged for patients that need private medical advise in a busy pharmacy / practice.

3. Swiftly follow established public health guiding procedures for suspected and confirmed cases: here

  • Identify potential cases as soon as possible.
  • Prevent the potential transmission of infection to other patients and staff.
  • Avoid direct physical contact, including physical examination, and exposures to respiratory secretions.

4. Advise management if they are experiencing signs of undue stress:

As a frontline healthcare worker it’s important to maintain your health while working to save others. Maintain appropriate working hours and environment. Go on break when needed to enable you to replenish the lost energy. Let your manager know when you start experiencing signs of stress such as headache, tense muscles, rapid heartbeat.

Signs of illness and when to self-isolate and quarantine:

  • Signs of illness: When you start feeling fever and shortness of breath, report to the manager.
  • Self Isolation: You go on self-isolation when you come in contact with someone that has the symptoms of the virus. Duration is 14 days as this is the incubation period for the virus.
  • Quarantine: You go into quarantine when you are confirmed positive of carrying the virus.
  • Practical steps: Always put on smart clothes that can be washed daily- no ties or suits.
  • Other steps: Keep hydrated, take your pen to the pharmacy, put on gloves, especially if handling patients’ cash payments, wash hands often and use alcohol gel.


COVID-19, Frontline health worker, Locum pharmacist

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