Among Cape Town healthcare workers, burnout is highly prevalent, and worsened by the fear of infection, said City spokesperson Priya Reddy.
A year after the breakout of COVID in the Western Cape, the provincial department of health also reported significant levels of burnout among its health-care workers, especially in doctors, nurses and support staff.
Reddy said: “Burnout is highly prevalent as a result of exposure to trauma, loss, grief and compassion fatigue, and is exacerbated by the high levels of anxiety for fear of contracting the virus.”
However, she said: “The presence of Covid-19 has not diverted health-care workers from their primary responsibilities, thus the pandemic added additional levels of care and caution to the way they work and required a major adjustment.”
In response, the City has made available a number of employee assistance programmes (EAP) and wellness interventions to all employees, including City health-care workers and those supporting them in their different functions. The City is also providing workshops on burnout, compassion fatigue and resilience, and making proactive interventions to deal with stress and anxiety.
The provincial health department reported that between October and December last year, 2832 employees accessed the employee health and wellness programme. Work related problems, trauma, COVID related challenges, family challenges and relationships issues were the most common problems presented during this time.
In his review of the pandemic ‘s year in the province, provincial department of health head, Dr Keith Cloete said: “The department recognised the immense impact the pandemic has had on its staff and has initiated intentional healing and grieving sessions with our front-line workers and managers.”
“The department also recognised the need for staff to rest and recuperate, and in between the two waves we encouraged and granted staff to take leave so they can spend some time with family members,” Dr Cloete added.
SA Society of Psychiatrists (Sasop) board member Dr Renata Schoeman said: “Because people on the verge of burnout feel the need to keep going even though they are exhausted and in a state of relentless overwork, by the time they consult a health professional, burnout has often already become depression or anxiety disorder.”
She added: “Avoiding burnout is a classic case where prevention is better than cure, and lifestyle is the most effective preventative strategy. Improving your emotional and mental fitness, as well as physical fitness, helps to build resilience which means you can handle stress better and cope with setbacks.”
A survey of burnout in India found that 52.8% of respondents reported pandemic-related burnout, compared to 26.9% for work-related burnout. Burnout risk was increased by 1.64 for doctors and by 5 for support staff.