Non-compliance with COVID-19 measures and recommendations remains biggest challenge

This story is part of the United Nations in BiH series of personal accounts highlighting extraordinary work during COVID-19 response and recovery; marking UN75.

My name is Snežana Bursać Aranđelović, I am an epidemiologist by profession, and my primary role within my field of work is prevention and health education at the the Institute for the Public Health of Sarajevo Canton. From the very beginning of the pandemic, I have been working on identifying and tracking the secondary and tertiary contacts of people who came in touch with the COVID-19. From the first positive case, I have been monitoring the health of infected patients, those that came in contact with them, and all of that in close work with my colleagues covering family medicine. With them, I have been constantly monitoring the patient's health condition and eventually setting up additional check-ups if needed. Additionally, after diagnostic and clinical signs of healing and recovery, I relieved patients of home isolation.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, my working hours and work organization has changed drastically. I was available for all information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When learning about positive findings in patients, it is necessary to first inform the patient, their first contacts, explain what it means when someone is in home isolation, calm them down, give suggestions and guide the patient through the whole process to the very end, until he/she is completely recovered. When it comes to restrictive measures, I was thinking of them as something necessary for the protection of the population. As I was leaving regularly for work every day, and worked much longer than on usual work days, I did not experience those restrictive measures as much as others who were deprived of leaving their homes, socializing and practicing other activities. My goal was to always be at the service of the patient.

These last couple of months have had a big impact one me both, professionally and emotionally. We have seen the whole world reacting to this with protection measures, some with looser and some of them with much more strict ones. But the one thing that scares me the most, just like any other health worker, is the death of a patient, regardless of how professional we are in what we do. The hardest thing for me was talking to family members after the passing of their loved ones. Our leadership and management at the Institute of Public Health of the Sarajevo Canton motivated and inspired me and other colleagues the most. The director spent hours with me every day, participated in developing the recommendations for the new measures. That support encouraged us to endure all attacks, insults, humiliation, and kept us on the right path, the only correct path of a health worker.

From my own experience, by monitoring over a hundred COVID-19 positive patients and putting all of their contacts, secondary or tertiary, under surveillance, I have to single out those who deliberately  don’t comply with measures and recommendations as the biggest challenge.  The measures recommended for epidemics such as this one are very simple and very effective, and that is physical distance, wearing masks and hand washing.

UN entities involved in this initiative
UNFPA
United Nations Population Fund