Maverick Citizen


Concert of Gratitude celebrates healthcare workers on the Covid frontline

Concert of Gratitude celebrates healthcare workers on the Covid frontline
The Cape Town Philharmonic holds a lunch-hour outdoor concert at Groote Schuur Hospital on 15 September 2021 in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

On Wednesday the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra hosted a Concert of Gratitude for healthcare workers, in recognition and appreciation of the work they are doing.

Frontline worker Rowena Jacobs described the Concert of Gratitude on Wednesday as a “blessing in disguise”. Jacobs celebrated her 58th birthday as she listened to a lunchtime concert by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra at the Groote Schuur Hospital. 

Grassy Park resident Jacobs has worked at the hospital since 1990 and is an operational manager of nurses. She told Daily Maverick it was her birthday on Wednesday. 

“It’s like a birthday gift,” she said. 

It was her second birthday during the Covid-19 pandemic, and looking back to last year, “I didn’t think I would have a birthday,” she said. In June 2020, she tested positive for Covid-19 and spent three months off work because of complications associated with the virus. 

“It’s quite hectic,” she said of her Covid-19 experience. As a result, she still has breathing problems – “but I’m still here”. 

Rowena Jacobs, an Operations Manager: Nurses at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. (Photo: Suné Payne)

Wednesday’s lunchtime concert by the orchestra was held to show recognition and appreciation for the work healthcare workers were doing. It was held in person and streamed live on Youtube for healthcare workers across South Africa to view. 

The concert stemmed from the Hospital Heroes movement, which distributed refreshments to medical staff at hospitals, initially in the Cape metropole, and then it spread nationally. This was to lift the spirits of doctors, nurses and other frontline support staff who work long hours caring for those with Covid-19. 

Hospital Heroes partnered with the humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers. Hospital Heroes aims to expand its support by focusing on the mental and emotional well-being of healthcare workers. 

“As we know, this has been the most challenging time for anyone in the health profession and the true heroes of this pandemic are the healthcare workers, where they have put their own lives at risk in saving other people’s lives,” said Ali Sablay, a project manager at Gift of the Givers. 

Talking about the concert, Sablay said: “The idea came up just to give them that support, that motivation and just to give them that calmness they haven’t experienced since the pandemic started. 

“The last few months, the only music these people have listened to is the beeping of machines and that itself had a devastating and breaking-point effect on them – many of them burnt out.”

The Cape Town Philharmonic holds a lunch-hour outdoor concert at Groote Schuur Hospital on 15 September 2021 in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

The Concert of Gratitude at Groote Schuur Hospital for frontline health workers nationally on 15 September 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images /Brenton Geach)

The idea for the concert was born out of Hospital Heroes, who saw the need to recognise and reward the efforts made by the frontline healthcare and medical staff at hospitals countrywide in the face of Covid-19. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

In January, Western Cape Health Department Head Dr Keith Cloete said the department was focused on emotional healing, because many healthcare workers had been traumatised by their experiences during the pandemic. 

Speaking to Daily Maverick after the concert, Dr Bhavna Patel, the CEO of Groote Schuur Hospital, said there weren’t enough words to describe the appreciation of the orchestra which performed for healthcare workers. “A lot of people fear coming to the hospital,” she said. 

Patel said staff were anxious about “having to deal with this disease; they had their own anxieties of them possibly being ill, infecting their family members and many of them look after their old parents or they have young children”. 

Thus far, 20 frontline workers at the hospital have succumbed to Covid-19. 

Sablay told Daily Maverick that similar initiatives and programmes would be rolled out across South Africa in the next few months. DM


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