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What was it Like Being on the Frontline in Africa for 2 years

International SOS helps thousands of organisations around the world in ensuring their business continuity. Our medical teams in Africa assist both domestic and international employees across the continent with healthcare services of international standards on a continent where access to high-quality healthcare and life-saving services can be limited.

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 “One of the most challenging cases I have come across in these two years was a positive COVID-19 case that I managed within the client's quarantine facility, where the patient was severely ill. I was thus wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) daily because the person needed special support and nursing care. With support from International SOS’ doctor and Assistance Centre, the patient quickly recovered and was able to quickly return to normal life”, recalls Pedro Rodrigues, who works as an Emergency Nurse for International SOS in Angola.

It’s been two years since the announcement of the global COVID-19 pandemic outbreak by the World Health Organisation. Those two years have been testing for the global population and businesses saw their resilience being challenged. International SOS helps thousands of organisations around the world in ensuring their business continuity. Our medical teams in Africa assist both domestic and international employees across the continent with healthcare services of international standards on a continent where access to high-quality healthcare and life-saving services can be limited.

We would like to recognise our team of over 900 healthcare professionals working across more than 150 client sites and our 16 clinics in Africa1. Their contribution in the fight against COVID-19 to support our clients’ workforce is commendable.

At the Height of this Pandemic, Every Healthcare Worker Involved was Tested to his or her Limit

Our medical professionals take great pride in being among the many frontliners around the world helping to care for those directly impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic and the various restrictions disrupted the life and the work of our medical professionals. In addition to providing support to the affected in isolation wards, they also had to practise and teach barrier gestures and demystify fake news and taboos around vaccination. Telemedicine has also occupied a large part of our doctors’ daily routine for the past two years, with the number of virtual consultations having skyrocketed due to travel restrictions, local curfews, and even the fear of going to healthcare institutions to avoid catching the virus. The frontliners’ wardrobe also changed drastically, with masks and PPE outfits becoming mandatory, irrespective of the local climate.

Dr Henry Omaduvie, one of our clinic doctors in Nigeria, recalls,

At the height of this pandemic, every healthcare worker involved was tested to his or her limit. It was extraordinarily challenging to manage critically ill COVID-19 patients.  It meant very long hours of work and limited breaks and most of it in very uncomfortable PPEs. As the head of the team, you had to lead by example knowing that the lives of your patients, the hope of their families and sometimes the lives of your colleagues depend on you.

Adapting to a Rapidly Evolving Landscape

The onset of the pandemic was especially daunting due to the rapidly evolving landscape, as we came to learn more and more from the disease, along with new treatment options, best practices for screening procedures, isolation, evaluation of the state of health, and assessing and preparing patients for medical evacuations. The first symptoms of COVID-19 could easily be confused for those of malaria or other infectious diseases as well. But with the support of our global network of qualified and experienced health experts, our teams received continuous training and updates as new findings were coming in, and access to latest up to date medical data and support by our clinical governance platform. They were able to adapt and support our clients’ workforce across remote sites and clinics in Africa.

Dr Evelyn Agomor, Chief Medical Officer on a client site in Ghana, shares her experience:
As a frontline health worker, screening/testing, prompt diagnosis, immediate isolation of positive cases and management of suspected cases of COVID-19 among the workforce on the mine site with contact tracing, helped contain the few outbreaks we had on site.

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Our medical teams from across Africa have had to think, plan and act quickly from the screening phase to providing treatment, following up on the progress, and even participating in high-level decisions on patient evacuations. Their actions have truly helped save lives since the past two years. Our three Assistance Centres covering all of Africa coordinated case management and medical evacuations of COVID-19 patients among other life-threatening conditions, despite travel restrictions and border closures.

Thankfully I, along with other team members, were able to count on International SOS to support us through this tough moment.

These last two years have been quite challenging, both emotionally and physically, for our frontline healthcare workers on the continent. Dr Kety Guambe, based in Mozambique and currently working as the Pandemic Lead Doctor on a client site, confides that

under normal circumstances, as a doctor, you have a fair understanding of what course a patient is going to take and that gives you a lot of confidence. But with COVID-19 I didn’t have that at the beginning, due to the unpredictable nature of the disease. This, along with staying isolated from the people I love, definitely affected me. Thankfully I, along with other team members, were able to count on International SOS to support us through this tough moment. It wouldn't have been the same without this support, we went through everything as a team.

Many of the frontline workers share that this pandemic was also a revealing moment where they rediscovered themselves, their inner passion, and what keeps them going even against all odds. Their motivation and drive to care for and save the lives of others have strengthened. They have displayed and lived our company values of care, expertise, respect and passion, through their positive and never-give-up attitude.

In a profession which holds high stakes, where even the smallest of details have an impact, our doctors and nurses are even more motivated to save and transform lives as they feel the need to make the right call every time they encounter a patient. Dr Abraham Udoudom, Senior Medical Officer at International SOS Clinic in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, considers it to be “a huge privilege to be allowed a peek into the lives of people in their vulnerable moments and be granted permission to walk and work with them as they journey to recovery.”

  1. Based on International SOS’s data (January – December 2021)