YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar nurse Win Win Myint says the strain of working during the coronavirus pandemic has left her and some of her colleagues on the frontlines in the Southeast Asian country’s fragile health care system physically and mentally exhausted.
Win, 52, oversees a COVID-19 quarantine centre in Yangon in a converted school that monitors people with mild symptoms or suspected cases and says on average two government health workers have to guide about 100 volunteers at each centre.
After avoiding a major coronavirus outbreak at the start of the pandemic, Myanmar has seen a spike in infections with total cases topping 100,000 this week and over 2,000 deaths, adding to pressure on a health system heavily dependent on volunteers.
“When medical workers get infected we have to work twice as long to make up for the absent positions. So, we are so tired physically and depressed on the frontlines against the virus,” said Win.
The senior government nurse has had to speak to her 82-year-old mother via a video call for the past five months from the quarantine centre where she works because of fears of infection, despite her mother’s repeated pleas to visit her nearby Yangon home.
Khin Khin Gyi, director general of the Ministry of Health and Sport, said about 1,000 healthcare workers had been infected during the pandemic with one death.
Decades of neglect by Myanmar’s formerly ruling military junta led the health system to be ranked the worst in the world by the World Health Organization in 2000, the last time it published ratings.
Khin agreed health care professionals were under pressure but said the pandemic had drawn medical workers closer to each other so they felt “like family members, like comrades”.
She also said the department of medical research was working on an action plan to help tackle mental health issues facing them.
As for nurse Win, she is eligible for early retirement after 25 years of service, and plans to take that option next year whatever happens with the pandemic.
(Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)