Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Dr. Mamadu Baldeh, a 31-year-old medical officer attached to the Infectious Disease and Isolation Unit at the Connaught Hospital, University of Sierra Leone Teaching Hospital complex, in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
I am also a clinical research assistant and anatomy demonstrator at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, University of Sierra Leone. I am the president of the Junior Doctors Association of Sierra Leone.
How long have you been working as a healthcare worker? What made you choose a career in healthcare? Any fears or regrets?
I have been a medical doctor for almost four years, providing clinical care to patients as well as teaching medical students at the University of Sierra Leone. My first clinical experience after leaving the medical school was serving as a volunteer medic during the 2016 Olympic Games in Río de Janeiro, Brazil.
I grew up as a scout, so service to others brings me satisfaction. As a child I envisaged a career of service: taking care of people in pain and discomfort. I therefore decided to become a doctor.
My biggest fear is when patients die because of lack medical facilities. We have amazing medical practitioners in Sierra Leone, but we need to be empowered.
How are you helping fight COVID-19 in your country? How has your work changed since COVID-19 broke out?
As the officer in charge of the largest isolation unit for COVID-19 in Sierra Leone, I see patients who are sometimes in critical state. We provide each suspected case with a set of bedside vital equipment, rapid diagnostics test and emergency medications. These will help reduce possible risk of cross-transmission infection.
Most cases nationwide pass through our facility. As the only doctor attached to the unit, I sometimes sleep at the facility attending to patients.
What affects you the most in this COVID-19 situation? What keeps you going? How are you coping?
What affects me include explaining to patients with mild symptoms that they are positive for COVID-19. Sometimes, a patient may question a lab result or even our medical judgment. But we keep motivating ourselves within the unit to do the best we can for all our patients.
Also, most cases that come to our unit are highly suspected for COVID-19 but may include long-standing co-morbidities. Therefore, after testing, irrespective of whether it turns out to be COVID-19 or not, there is some unfavorable news for a patient with underlying conditions.
Finally, with no active general testing programme to identify asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients, those who eventually get tested are likely to be already showing severe symptoms of COVID-19, which complicates management of the disease.