The Durban University of Technology (DUT) continues to commend all its essential service workers for their dedication and commitment in providing services to the DUT community during the COVID-19 pandemic. DUT’s Communications team’s Simangele Zuma spoke to one of the frontline workers, Sister Sooriagandhi Wardthen, who is a Manager at DUT’s Isolempilo Campus Health Clinic. Sister Wardthen has been at the forefront since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
Q: What is your role at DUT?
A: “I was employed to manage the Isolempilo Clinic at Steve Biko Campus following the merger between ML Sultan and Technikon Natal. I have since managed to extend the provision of Primary Health Care services to the City, Brickfield and Ritson Campuses and a ‘soon to be’ opened clinic at the ML Sultan Campus. So for me, this has been a very successful journey at DUT- from a fledgling, one clinic on Steve Biko campus, to a clinic on each of the campuses in Durban.”
Q: How long have you been in that role?
A: “It has been over 15 years.”
Q: Please describe yourself in five words?
A: “Honest, resourceful, diligent, loyal and reliable.”
Q: How has it been like working during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: “It has been a very trying time. My nursing training did not prepare me for the devastation that this pandemic would bring. It has meant extending and availing myself to working long hours including during lockdown, weekends, public holidays and being thankful for networking and colleagues both internal and external to DUT, willing to assist.”
Q: How do you ensure your safety during this difficult time?
A: “I ensure strict adherence to the COVID-19 Guidelines as a healthcare worker to prevent the possibility of being exposed to or spreading the virus to colleagues or family. I also ensure the procurement and availability of Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) for staff.”
Q: How do you deal with the fear of contracting COVID-19 and losing a loved one due to the virus?
A: “The pandemic certainly affected me psychologically and resulted in me being in a perpetual state of anxiety. Prayer and an obsession (if you may call it that), of handwashing and sanitising. My extended family have all adhered to the rules for the past year and to date. It has been difficult for the teenagers and young adults, curtailing their activities and social life. Thus far, we have not lost any close family members to COVID-19, but losing a colleague or someone that you know of, be it someone in your neighbourhood, within the university or from another university, or any healthcare worker, affects one psychologically.”
Q: What does your typical day entails?
A: “I try to plan ahead. But circumstance at the campus clinic arise that derails well thought of plans and adjustments have to be made to cope with the present issues and challenges. Fortunately, the team, largely, are willing to accommodate the challenges as they arise.”
Q: What went through your mind when you first conducted the PCR COVID-19 tests?
A: “I decided during the early stage of the pandemic that we will limit the number of staff exposing themselves to infection. Although all the staff have been trained by the Department of Health to conduct the PCR COVID-19 Tests. We have one registered nurse, conducting the PCR Test within a controlled setting.”
Q: Have you been vaccinated and what is your take on the vaccine?
A: “No, I have not been vaccinated as yet. The single dose Johnson and Johnson, seems appropriate. Genetic mutations and new variants are emerging. There is still a high risk of infection and mortality. Current vaccination drives may not adequately protect us. Even if you have been vaccinated, you could possibly be infected with another variant. Therefore, we need to continue to practice the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Hopefully we may achieve Herd Immunity, to protect ourselves against the virus.”
Q: When not at work, what do you do for fun?
A: “I enjoy cooking, baking and have taken up some gardening. Recently my siblings and I started walking on the Promenade at the Durban Beachfront. We leave home at 6h00 every Sunday morning and drive into town. The atmosphere is awesome. A week ago, we managed a 10km walk. I’m making some changes to my lifestyle and would encourage the DUT community to do the same.”
Q: If you were not a healthcare worker, what would you be and why?
A: “I have never thought of any other profession as I come from a family of teachers and nurses. Being a nurse, is all I ever wanted to be. My passion was community health/primary health care, which I practiced for 20 years before joining DUT. I am attracted to pottery though. I think it’s therapeutic working with your hands and moulding and creating beautiful objects.”