Not only does Brazil have the second highest number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 in the world, surpassing 100,000 deaths, it also has a high number of essential workers in the public sector affected by the virus. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is now launching a new campaign to “respect and protect” those essential workers, which aims to prevent stigma while fostering respect and support for those working on the front line of the emergency.
“We went through a panic period and, at the beginning, we experienced some prejudice and abuse on the subway, buses and everything,” says the nurse Natália Mercúrio, from São Paulo. “Being a professional and on the front line, we often face things with fear. But the need to help, the oath, the commitment, it becomes a lot greater when we health professionals leave home. We leave with the intention of taking care of ourselves, of being cautious, so that we can return to our homes. But, at the same time, with a lot of fear of being a healthy carrier and taking this disease home with you,” adds the deputy director of the hospital Moacyr do Carmo, in the city of Duque de Caxias, Rio de Janeiro state.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, essential workers have been exposed to a higher risk of infection from the virus while carrying out their day-to-day work. Data from the health ministry on COVID-19, published in a bulletin on 6 August, shows that 232,992 health professionals have been diagnosed with the virus. Of these, 196 have officially died of COVID-19 – other cases are under investigation. However, the figure could be even higher. According to the Federal Council of Nursing (Cofen), the number of confirmed cases among nursing professionals alone stands at 32,279 and the number of deaths among nursing staff is 334.
According to a poll carried out by Brazil’s Datafolha Institute and published in July, in 2020, doctors are seen as the most trusted professionals in Brazil, with a 35 per cent of public confidence rating. The same survey highlights that, while 51 per cent of Brazilians believe that doctors’ work receives sufficient recognition, the respondents consider doctors’ working conditions to be merely satisfactory, poor or even dire.
“The fear we had was that we couldn't truly do our best for the patients, because there was an outrageous number of people who were in critical condition, who needed respirators, people who needed oxygen. And we couldn't provide enough support for all those people who needed our help and we were just trying to do our best,” says the doctor Sérgio Simões, from Fortaleza, in the Northeastern region of Brazil.
“We know that the situation already wasn’t easy before the pandemic. But its now become more troubling and, in light of this, we've created the 'Appreciate the Essential' campaign,” explains the ICRC’s Safer Access Adviser, Lívia Schunk.
The campaign has two core aspects. The first is aimed at professionals and service providers who are the ICRC’s partners, particularly those working in areas affected by violence. It provides practical recommendations for self-care and how to manage stress. The second aspect focuses on the general public and aims to build empathy with professionals, promoting support for essential workers and teams through their personal stories. Find out more on the official campaign website (in Portuguese).
For more information
Diogo Alcântara, ICRC Brasilia, +55 (61) 98248-7600, email@example.com
Sandra Lefcovich, ICRC Brasilia, +55 (61) 98175-1599, firstname.lastname@example.org
Locations: Fortaleza (CE), Duque de Caxias (RJ) and São Paulo (SP), Brazil
Producer/Camera: Camila Almeida (in Fortaleza), Guillermo Planel (in Duque de Caxias) and Tiago Queiroz (in São Paulo)
Editing: Realejo Filmes
Filming dates: 1/6/2020 (Hospital de Campanha do Anhembi – São Paulo), 17/6/2020 (Emílio Ribas Institute of Infectious Diseases – São Paulo), 24/6/2020 (Emílio Ribas Institute of Infectious Diseases – São Paulo), 26/6/2020 (Sarapuí Primary Healthcare Facility – Duque de Caxias), 2/7/2020 (Institute Dr. José Frota - Fortaleza).
On-screen credit to be used: International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC or ICRC logo
TIME CODE LOCATION / IMAGES / TRANSCRIPTS
0:00 - 0:04 Entrance of the Yolanda Queiroz Emergency Care Facility in Fortaleza.
0:05 - 0:07 Doctor Sérgio Simões examines X-rays.
0:08 -0:12 Doctor Sérgio Simões walks the halls of the Yolanda Queiroz Emergency Care Facility in Fortaleza (Ceará).
0:13 - 0:32 Doctor Sérgio Simões attends to a patient.
0:33 - 1:37 Soundbite of Sérgio Simões:
“There were people who were clear-headed, who understood that they were dying and that we, unfortunately, couldn't do anything. We called the ambulance service (Samu), and they said: “look, we don't have anywhere to take this person, there isn't any other respirator available in our city.” And we also didn't have anything, and really couldn’t do anything for that person besides making them comfortable. We were already starting our shifts feeling a bit down because we knew we were going to have to make difficult decisions. We'd see horrible things. But we were also hoping to do our best for the patient. If we could just save one person, it would have made our day. The fear we had was that we couldn't truly do our best for the patients, because there was an outrageous number of people who were in critical condition, who needed respirators, people who needed oxygen. And we couldn't provide enough support for all those people who needed our help and we were just trying to do our best. The psychological side of everyone had been changed. I have a number of colleagues who sought treatment with a psychiatrist, or even a psychologist. I was suffering from anxiety and I had to see the psychiatrist to increase the dosage of medication because it was really difficult for us.”
1:38 - 1:45 Social worker Pamela Santos is walking through the corridors of the Yolanda Queiroz Emergency Care Facility in Fortaleza.
1:45 - 1:51 Social worker Pamela Santos puts on her mask.
1:52 - 1:55 Social worker Pamela Santos behind the door.
1:56 - 2:00 Social worker Pamela Santos is walking through the corridors of the Yolanda Queiroz Emergency Care Facility in Fortaleza.
2:01 - 3:02 Soundbite of Pamela Santos:
"A lot of families also arrive without understanding the seriousness. Why wear a mask, why wash my hands, why can't I visit, why can’t I stay with him, why is he intubated, why is he on a respirator. There's a lot of questions and concerns about the patient's condition. So it's up to us to be sensitive about listening, to make the family feel like they're being cared for and to strive for this understanding between the family and the professional, and to also designate all this to others. So, the social worker is the health professional who will become involved in what is not all that noticeable when the patient is admitted to the hospital, because the patient is not just the fractured arm, or the motorcycle accident that was reported in Jornal de Fortaleza, he's not just Covid-19. So how do we find out about this patient who arrived intubated, who arrived on a respirator, who was transferred in serious condition from an Emergency Care Facility? We have the tools for the job, we have the skills. And so we grow together as a working family. ”
3:03 - 3:37 Francimar Freitas da Silva, a General Services Assistant, works on-site at the Yolanda Queiroz Emergency Care Facility.
3:38 - 4:27Soundbite of Francimar Freitas:“I feel useful at a certain point. Because we're the first process. The cleaning has to be done first so that everything's ready for the professionals to work in each area. And this pandemic has been a period that has overwhelmed everyone. And it was no different for us. There was a huge number of patients. We saw lots of things, and it's gonna stick with us for a long time. In 42 years, I've never gone through such an intimidating situation. It's tough. ”
4:28 - 4:31 Kristiany de Oliveira, a patient who recovered from Covid-19.
4:32 - 4:35 Patient Kristiany de Oliveira takes off her mask
4:36 - 4:39 Kristiany de Oliveira, a patient who recovered from Covid-19
4:40 - 4:46 Patient Kristiany de Oliveira puts on her mask
4:47 - 5:18 Soundbite of Kristiany de Oliveira
“I was pretty sure I was going to die. Because I had a couple of bad moments. It's such a nasty virus that at night, you are talking to the person next to you in bed, and in the morning you wake up without breathing again. I think the most assertive word at that time is helpless, so you look around and say, ‘how do I beat this?‘. And I was really afraid because I knew that everyone at home had Covid-19. They all got it. ”
5:19 - 5:27 Front view of the Sarapuí Primary Healthcare Facility in Duque de Caxias.
5:28 - 5:33 Hilton Ribeiro, the deputy medical director of the Sarapuí Primary Healthcare Facility, puts on his mask.
5:34 - 5:36 Doctor Hilton Ribeiro signs documents
5:37 - 5:41 Documents on Hilton Ribeiro’s desk
5:42 - 6:26 Soundbite of Hilton Ribeiro:
“Being a professional and on the front line, we often face things with fear. But the need to help, the oath, the commitment, it becomes a lot greater when we health professionals leave home. We leave with the intention of taking care of ourselves, of being cautious, so that we can return to our homes. But, at the same time, with a lot of fear of being a healthy carrier and taking this disease home with you. During this pandemic, we leave really exhausted, but with a true sense of accomplishment, Because we always give our best to whomever we have to give it to, which is the patient. ”
6:27 - 6:34 Front view of the Emílio Ribas Institute of Infectious Diseases in São Paulo.
6:35 – 6:39 Nurse Natália Mercúrio
6:40 – 6:53 Nurse Natália Mercúrio speaks in the telephone
6:54 – 7:30 Soundbite of Natália Mercúrio
“I've realized that the thing that's changed, I guess in relation to care, is that we're taking better care of ourselves than before. Before, we'd thought that such and such disease was contagious. But I'm not a person who's really down, so it'd be difficult for me to get it. Today, Covid-19 isn't like this. You can get it even if you're not someone who's very depressed. Someone who doesn't have any health problem, someone who is young. There were people who didn’t have any health issues, people who were young and passed away. And we used to say before that this disease would only affect people who are bedridden or those who are really frail. Because of this, we took better care of ourselves and we began taking extra care of each other, saying: “look, get yourself ready before entering the room. Put on a mask. “ We took better care of each other, so that was the upside of it. The downside I see is that it's been a really tremendous strain. We went through a panic period and, at the beginning, we experienced some prejudice and abuse on the subway, buses and everything. Even today, people still ask : “Aren’t you afraid that your daughter works in health care? What's your routine like when you get home? What do you do with your clothes? You come straight from the hospital to here, and suddenly you see something in a store or something else. “People have a certain amount of fear. They have respect, but there's still some fear. So, people still hold on to this negative side a bit. ”
7:31 – 7:35 Staff at the Emílio Ribas Institute of Infectious Diseases are holding flowers
7:36 - 7:55 Jair Fernandes Farias, an employee at the Humanization Committee of the Emílio Ribas Institute, delivers flowers to the employees from the appreciating health professionals campaign known as “Flowers for Heroes”.
7:56 - 8:38 Soundbite of Jair Fernandes Farias:"You have to be professional, but we're human and there's no way you can't be touched by the stories. So it's a daily drama that the frontline professionals have to cope with, and we who are here in the back row, at the rear, have to do our part. As small as it is, it's a gesture of attention, to remind this professional that they are not alone, that the challenge is not just their's and that they feel appreciated. It makes all the difference. ”
8:39 - 8:43 Physical therapist Uilsa Gonçalves assists patients admitted to the Anhembi Field Hospital in São Paulo.
8:44 - 8:48 The Red Ward of the Anhembi Field Hospital in São Paulo.
8:49 - 8:53 Physical therapist Uilsa Gonçalves assists a patient.
8:54 - 9:02 Physical therapist Uilsa Gonçalves fills out documents.
9:03 - 9:46 Soundbite of Uilsa Gonçalves:
“Covid-19 patients demand more of our experience and more of our care, so that they can stabilize and be transferred, or even be discharged from here fully recovered. I've been working here in the Red Ward where the high risk patients are. We have to treat these patients to stabilize both the respiratory part, saturation, positioning them and offering the best form of oxygenation. We stabilize those who need to be transferred to the ICU, or some of them who've gotten better can be sent to the wards. ”
9:47 - 10:19 Soundbite of Lívia Schunk, ICRC’s Safer Access Adviser:
"The Safer Access to Essential Services is a methodology intended to reduce and mitigate the humanitarian consequences of armed violence that affects essential services. And, as such, the idea is to promote greater protection for professionals like you and for everyone who uses these services. We know that the situation already wasn’t easy before the pandemic. But its now become more troubling and, in light of this, we've created the 'Value the Essential' campaign. We want to recognize and appreciate professionals like you, who play a role each day in minimizing the effects of the pandemic on people's lives.”