In an attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19, the Western Cape Health Department has requested that all non-emergency patients stay at home instead of visiting health centres and to seek advice first if they are unsure.
The department announced on Sunday March 22 that they had implemented physical distancing to stop the spread of the virus and more so to protect vulnerable people.
Department spokesperson, Mark Van der Heever, said thousands of people visited public health facilities daily and the department had a responsibility to stop the spread. This, he said, was one of the main ways of doing so.
He said to protect communities the department suggested avoiding all situations where human bodies came into contact with each other, and reducing the times and places when people came together – including going to a public health facility when it was not necessary.
“By keeping your distance from crowded places such as clinics and hospitals, you protect the vulnerable, including the sick and elderly, and safeguard our facilities against the spread of the virus. Western Cape Government Health therefore requests that unless you require emergency treatment that you please stay at home and seek advice first if unsure. If you need emergency medical care, you must urgently go to your closest health facility,” said Mr Van der Heever.
If you have flu-like symptoms, including a cough and fever, first call the Provincial Coronavirus Hotline on 021 928 4102 for advice. Unless advised to, you should not go to your clinic or hospital.
Other interventions have also been put in place to stop the spread including; the reduction of visitation times and number of visitors, non-urgent outpatient appointments will be postponed and patients given alternative dates, stable chronic patients to be issued two months’ supply of medication to reduce visits, non-urgent elective surgery will be postponed and patients provided with a later date, outreach support to outlying areas will be reduced and patients who are in hospital but are stable will be discharged for further management at home.
“We all need to work together to stop the spread by making basic hygiene principles part of our daily lives and limiting social gatherings. You play a big role in preventing the further spread of Covid-19. In doing so, you not only protect yourself but you also protect your family and your community,” said Mr Van der Heever.
Staff at the Retreat Community Health Centre welcomed the announcement.
A nurse who spoke to Southern Mail on condition of anonymity said the decision had been made to safeguard not only the sick and elderly but also those on the frontline at health facilities.
“Our job is to help the sick and in order to do that patients need to help us by staying at home if they don’t have an emergency. This will protect those most vulnerable but also protect us. We hope people listen and that way we can fight and bend the curve to stop the spread of the virus,” she said.
Patient Maggie Solomon, 74, said she would only be returning to collect her chronic medication.
“I understand that this is a serious situation and we need to do everything in our power to stop the spread of the virus and that is why I will only return to the clinic to get a two months supply of my chronic medication and will not come back unless I have an emergency. I respect the health department’s decision and hope everyone will listen,” said Ms Solomon.
Retreat Community Health Centre (CHC) facility manager, Susan Meyer, said patients were being screened at the gate and they had implemented a system to identify emergency cases.
The aim, she added, was to have fewer than 100 patients and staff, at the facility at one time – in line with the government requirement prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people.
“We are still a 24-hour health facility, the only difference is that only emergency patients will be assisted. We will not send patients who seriously needour help away. Patients who have doctor’s appointments will be rebooked. We have a plan and staff are working new shifts to implement the new plan,” said Ms Meyer.
Monday was the first day of implementation of the new system but according to Ms Meyer some patients became abusive towards hospital staff.
“We had incidents where people became abusive to staff. People need to understand that this was not our plan but the national plan that came from the president, we are implementing them to try and keep everyone safe and need the community to work with us and we need to adhere to the plan to the best of our ability,” she said.
She added that patients who came to the health facility should not bring children with them.
“I implore people to make alternative arrangements to keep children at home and away from the health facilities for their own safety,” said Ms
Asked what the Midwife Obstetrics Unit (MOU) had put in place, Ms Meyer said expectant mothers who were in labour or had emergencies could go to the facility and be assessed.