UP and Healthcare Workers Care Network sign MOU to tackle mental health

Posted on August 03, 2020

The University of Pretoria (UP) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Healthcare Workers Care Network (HWCN) to help tackle mental health challenges that affect healthcare practitioners. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth many challenges pertaining to the health and well-being of healthcare workers, specifically nurses, on the frontline.

The World Health Organization declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife with the intent of bringing awareness to the profound impact that nurses and midwives have in the lives of the public. No one could have predicted the current state of events and the impact that nurses would have in helping the country curb the effects of the coronavirus.

Nurses represent the largest component of the healthcare workforce dealing with COVID-19 patients, and they are finding themselves in the most extreme circumstances where the nature of caring has changed. “Mental health sequelae from experiences of epidemics constitute an ‘emergency within an emergency’. As nurses, we are expected to hold the fort, but we need to recognise how important it is to preserve our mental health and avoid psychological trauma,” said Dr Tanya Heyns, Associate Professor at UP’s Department of Nursing Science.

The HWCN is a nationwide healthcare worker support network which offers all healthcare workers across the public and private sectors free support, pro bono therapy, resources, training and psychoeducation. The HWCN already has over 500 volunteer mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs, registered counsellors and social workers, who will provide help, intervention and support to all healthcare workers. These include doctors, nurses, community healthcare workers, field workers, hospital or clinic personnel, including hospital laundry staff, and porters. 

The Faculty of Health Sciences looks forward to collaborating with the HWCN, said Professor Tiaan de Jager, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “This collaboration will not only assist the nursing fraternity but other healthcare workers by providing psychological and educational support while also creating more opportunities to conduct research that matters. I encourage every frontline worker to prioritise their mental health and use the network at their disposal,” he added. Prof De Jager also acknowledged the contribution of Professor Derick de Jongh, Director of the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership.

“South Africa’s healthcare workers are under enormous pressure,” said Dr Antoinette Miric, a Johannesburg-based psychiatrist and South African Society of Psychiatrists spokesperson. “They are committed to fighting this disease and saving as many lives as possible, all while managing their personal risks and anxieties around the virus and its impact on their own lives and their loved ones. We hope our collaboration with UP ensures that more healthcare workers combat mental health challenges.”

To access Healthcare Workers Care Network Support Services:

  • 24-hour Healthcare Workers Care Network Helpline – 0800 21 21 21 (available seven days a week)
  • SMS 43001
  • Website www.healthcareworkerscarenetwork.org.za – fill in the online form on the homepage to request individual therapy and support
  • Online requests for support and counselling are accessible through the website, the SAMA page, the EMGuidance App as well as the Vulamobile App
- Author Mmane Boikanyo

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