Covid's mental toll on the healthcare workers battling the virus

  • Watch the full report by Nicola Hendy

In the four months since the coronavirus pandemic hit Wales, healthcare workers here have faced pressure like never before.

The virus has claimed 1,545 lives according to Public Health Wales, with other estimates putting that figure much higher.

Healthcare workers in our hospitals and care homes have been on the frontline in the fight against the virus, but this daily struggle has had a huge emotional impact.

Gemma Vaughan saw 16 people die at the care home where she works as a mental health nurse Credit: ITV Wales

Gemma Vaughan is a mental health nurse. At the care home where she works near Bridgend they lost 16 people to the virus.

''We locked down quite early, no visitors,'' Gemma said.

''It was really, really difficult.

''One of the ladies I've known since I started, she was saying to me 'I know I'm dying.'

''It was heartbreaking and I just couldn't do anything, I just had to hold her hand. That was the worst, and then having to phone the family.''

Heather Williams fears a second wave of the virus Credit: ITV Wales

Heather Williams is a carer at the home describes herself as a ''pretty strong person'' but her experience has left her fearing her ability to cope if a second wave were to happen.

''I don't cry very often but I've shocked myself,'' she said.

''It's very hard to think what's gone one and I don't think I'd be able to do it again to be fair. If we had a second wave. Heartbreaking.''

Dr Dai Samuel worked on a covid ward during the height of the pandemic Credit: ITV Wales

Dr Dai Samuel is a gastroenterologist at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital who was transferred to work on a covid ward at the height of the pandemic. He shares Heather's anxieties over the mental toll of a possible second wave.

''Physically and mentally I think I've never felt more mentally drained and emotionally fragile as I am now,'' he said.

''That's not in terms of cracking up, that's just really feeling every interaction. Feeling tired, feeling guilty, feeling anxious.

''I still feel anxious coming into work because you don't know what's going to turn up today.

''Will this be the day that 20 cases turn up? There's still that awful fear as a doctor that we won't be able to cope with a second wave, not in terms of facilities, we're just all shattered.''

Dr Andrew Goodall said on Tuesday that second wave''would be much more sustained'' Credit: ITV Wales

Dr Samuel's fears over a second wave are echoed by NHS Wales boss Dr Andrew Goodall, who said on Tuesday that a second wave of coronavirus during the winter period ''would be much more sustained'' with the peak lasting longer.

But with cases currently falling, Dr Samuel has nothing but praise for the healthcare workers for their dedication over the last four months.

''We've had no symptoms or any positive cases going on two months now.

''I can't praise the care staff enough, they were absolutely amazing. They've done everybody proud. They were heroes.''