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Marie Curie nurse reveals surge in calls to Northern Ireland care homes during coronavirus crisis

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Marie Curie nurse Kasia Patynowska

Marie Curie nurse Kasia Patynowska

Marie Curie nurse Kasia Patynowska

Providing end of life care is never an easy job, but for one Marie Curie nurse it hurts all the more as the cancer patients in her care cannot even see her smile.

Figures have shown that 40% of Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland have occurred in care homes.

It has been reported by the Department of Health that 70 care homes have been affected across Northern Ireland, leading to calls for the health system to support care homes as staffing levels dwindle.

Kasia Patynowska is a Marie Curie Nurse working as part of the Rapid Response Service.

She said that since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been increased calls from care homes in Northern Ireland to assist and provide expert palliative care to patients both with and without coronavirus.

"We're all facing really challenging times and care homes need a lot of support," she said.

"They are experiencing an increased number of patients requiring palliative care at a time when their workforce is depleted. Some of our nurses have been required to shield and self-isolate in accordance with government guidelines."

Working in partnership with local GP out of hours, District Nursing Teams and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Marie Curie nurses remain able to provide a timely response for all calls for care and assistance, whether this is in someone's home, or care homes across Northern Ireland. "The number of calls we get nightly on the Rapid Response Service varies, but we are noticing an increased demand for the service following the coronavirus outbreak," said Kasia.

"Depending on the needs of the patients, I stay as long as I need to.

"Last week, I was in a care home in Belfast caring for patients with coronavirus, sadly at the final stages of their lives. One night I was there for six hours. I was with two patients as they died. Others were deteriorating rapidly.

"It's challenging as we're working under unusual and difficult circumstances.

"We're wearing masks, gloves, an apron and, when required, goggles and a face shield. It's taken away the usual interaction that you'd have with patients as they can't see you smile."

Kasia said the fact that families cannot be there with loved ones in the final hours is also hard to bear. "Another difficulty is the fact that families can't be with their loved ones - I really sympathise with that," she added.

"You're caring for people, but then you are also trying to keep families up to date on their loved one's condition.

"There was one patient at the nursing home last week that I was caring for and his daughter was very upset. I held the phone for her whilst she had a video call with her father telling him how much she loved him - it was really sad.

"Whilst the family are so sad that they can't be there, I think they find some comfort in that their loved one isn't alone and I can at least reassure them that I am doing everything I can to make sure they are as comfortable as possible."

Kasia has a family of her own and said she worries about the risk of infection to both herself and her household but continues to put patient care first.

"When I'm there with the patients, I'm not thinking about it, but then you come home and you do worry what you may be bringing into the house," she said.

"As I'm on the frontline, I know I'm higher risk and I'm so careful not to be in contact with others where possible.

"I'm afraid for my family, but I know I'm helping others at a really difficult time.

"At Marie Curie, we're experts in end of life care, so the service that we can provide is invaluable.

"It's what we do day in, day out, so we have an excellent understanding of what patients and families need at end of life.

"It's about being there when people need it most and providing really good quality care."

Belfast Telegraph