Thailand’s coronavirus medics feel strain even as cases decline

BANGKOK (Reuters) – For Bangkok nurse Kanjana Kamoun, the coronavirus Intensive Care Ward is not only where she works all day, it is where she thinks she is when she wakes up in the middle of the night, anxious and afraid.

A nurse wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) attends to a COVID-19 patient in the Emerging Infectious Disease Clinic intensive care unit at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Even as the number of new cases are slowing in Thailand – the first country outside of China to report a coronavirus infection – the strain is showing for the doctors and nurses who have worked for weeks to keep patients alive.

“Sometimes when I wake and my throat hurts, I get worried and wonder if I made mistakes at work or not,” Kanjana, 36, told Reuters. “All I can do is think that I did my best.”

Since March 9, the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital in Bangkok has treated nearly 200 coronavirus patients, and the medical staff there pride themselves on having not lost a single one.

“I don’t want anyone to die, I want them to only get better,” said Tatsanee Onthong, one of the nurses from the Intensive Care Unit.

PRESSURE ON PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

The hospital pays close attention to preventing infections among staff.

Patients who arrive for the first time see the doctor only on a screen. Consultations are carried out remotely.

The Intensive Care Unit is behind double barriers of glass. Only those who absolutely have to enter the room ever do so. One patient is kept in each room.

“It requires five to six medical staff, which each time takes up a lot of personal protective equipment suits,” said infectious diseases specialist Opass Putcharoen.

“It makes us worry that if we have a lot of severe cases we will use up a lot of resources and increase the chance of infection.”

But unlike in China or parts Europe and the United States, Thailand’s emergency wards have never been overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

And the number of cases reported has been slowing.

On Monday, Thailand reported nine new cases – the first time the number had fallen to single digits since March 14.

Despite having some of the earliest coronavirus cases, Thailand has reported only 2,931 cases in total – ranking 58th worldwide.

It has seen 52 deaths, while 2,609 patients have recovered.

Slideshow (10 Images)

Onthong recalled a patient who had arrived unconscious. Elderly and with another medical condition, the chances looked slim.

“But later the patient got better and recovered,” she said. “That lifted my spirit to keep on fighting.”

(This story corrects title and name, paragraph 9)

Editing by Matthew Tostevin

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