For one day we observed Altnagelvin Hospital’s fight against the virus – just one 12-hour window into a pandemic which is now into its ninth month.
There was talk of staff burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder and coping with depression.
Almost like an army coming back from a war, these hospital workers are feeling the impact of Covid. And the battle isn’t over yet.
To fill rotas and to ensure colleagues and wards are not left under-resourced, many nurses are working five consecutive days of 12-hour shifts.
They are supposed to work one week of four – the next week three. They say that rarely happens.
These same people, almost 12 months ago, were preparing for strike action.
While the pay dispute was resolved, staff are still waiting to be refunded the pay lost during strike action.
Despite the tremendous pressure that the pandemic has piled unto the hospital system, what struck me was the tremendous sense of calm and order from every single member of staff.
There was also huge dignity shown to all patients whether on the Covid-19 ward, in the Emergency Department or in ICU.
From the nurse delivering care with the same tenderness they would show a loved one, to the domestic assistant mopping the floor, Altnagelvin’s army of staff act as a team in their Covid fight.
The pandemic is just the latest crisis to hit the health and social care system.
Most hospitals in almost every country are struggling.
In Northern Ireland, the severe lack of funding, workforce planning, non-existent long-term budgets, a series of different health ministers and the three-year power-sharing hiatus has meant a lack of vision and inconsistent health policies.
With constant firefighting, those on the front line feel they are the casualties.
While it’s too late to mend the system for those working now, they believe the NI Executive must act to transform the system for the future.
Otherwise they feel their stalwart actions in fighting the pandemic will have been in vain.