DUBLIN, Ireland – The Filipina head nurse of an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a hospital near the capital is preparing her department for the surge of cases of the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
By the end of March, Ireland is estimated to have 15,000 cases of the fast-spreading disease.
"This is just the beginning. When it hits the ICU staff it will be a different ball game," said Shella Marie Delos Santos.
Delos Santos is an ICU Clinical Nurse Manager at Naas General Hospital in Kildare, where she has been working for the past 16 years. Prior to that, she was a staff nurse at the Armed Forces of the Philippines for 6 years.
"It is tougher now working as a manager in the ICU as I have to look after not only the safety of the patients, but also the safety and well-being of the ICU staff, the whole ICU environment, plus the areas that can be converted to Critical Care Units when the outbreak hits our section,” said Delos Santos, adding that she doesn't even have rest days.
She said there are 9 Filipino ICU nurses in her unit, and that there has been a shortage of critical care nurses.
“At the moment, we are training nurses in the ward with previous Critical Care experience - nurses working in theatre, coronary care, and medical interns - arming them with the knowledge and skills of an ICU Nurse so in the event of the upsurge they can be redeployed to ICU. On top of that, we are ensuring we have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE's) and medical consumables like ventilator tubing and other supplies. We are currently awaiting new ventilators to be delivered,” she said.
Naas General Hospital is located near Dublin and serves Kildare and West Wicklow, an area with rapidly growing population.
"The hardwork and support of the management and all the staff in Naas General Hospital is highly commendable. We look after each other and I am very proud of all the ICU nurses for their dedication to the nursing profession,” she said.
Originally from Valenzuela City in the Philippines, Delos Santos is married to a physiotherapist. She arrived in Ireland in 2001, worked in Sligo then moved to Naas General Hospital in June 2003. She successfully completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Intensive Care Nursing in Trinity College in Dublin.