Witkoppen Clinic is prepared for Covid-19

Sophi Muroa and other Witkoppen Clinic staff encourage community members to not be afraid and continue getting the medical care they need from the facility. Photo: Paul Reichle

FOURWAYS GARDENS – As Covid-19 continues to spread, Witkoppen Clinic has established a special unit and guidelines to continue caring for patients from the community.

As South Africa, and indeed the world, faces the Covid-19 pandemic, Witkoppen Clinic has mobilised a special unit to screen patients for the virus and make sure the community still has access to much-needed healthcare.

The clinic has been working with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) to ensure that its staff is equipped to handle the impact of the virus. Witkoppen has set up a special unit dedicated specifically to address the virus, has begun screening every person that enters the premises and has even set aside a specific building for patients who are suspected of being sick to stay in until they can receive further treatment.

“Witkoppen Clinic set up a committee to start planning for Covid-19 about three or four weeks ago when we started seeing cases in other parts of Africa and knew it was probably coming our way and we needed to be prepared,” explained Dr Emma Sim, who is the Covid Unit leader at the clinic. “Four of us sat together and started brainstorming an action plan so that we would be ready.”

In the following weeks, the clinic staff started educating community members who visited the site about the illness and what they could do to keep themselves healthy. The Covid Unit was officially launched on 16 March and focuses on screening visitors, testing those who may have the virus and separating them from other patients to prevent the potential spread.

Staff member Lebo Aphane hands a patient her file at the Witkoppen Clinic. Since 16 March, the non-profit organisation has had a dedicated Covid Unit to screen visitors and get those infected into treatment. Photo: Paul Reichle

“We have screening at both our pedestrian and car entrances, where everyone from staff, to patients, to delivery drivers are screened using the case definition. Patients are only tested for Covid-19 if they screen positive for the criteria. Staff at these entrances have been issued with N95 masks [which cover the nose and mouth and efficiently filter any airborne particles during human interaction], aprons and alcohol-based handwash to keep them safe.”

Tshepang Madiba and Sophi Muroa are two of the 230 staff members who care for patients at Witkoppen Clinic. Photo: Paul Reichle

The criteria are: The patient shows common symptoms of infection (such as a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and fever), has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, has visited or worked in a healthcare facility where patients are being treated for the virus, they have pneumonia of unknown origin or have travelled to areas where the virus is prevalent in the last 14 days.

Patients who are flagged are quarantined in the designated building where they will be tested for Covid-19 using samples. According to Sim, so far two people have been flagged and placed in the section – one on 16 March and one on 18 March. These patients, as well as any others who are infected in the future, are transported to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital where they can receive the proper treatment and monitoring as Witkoppen is only open during the day.

Witkoppen Clinic encourages community members, especially those who have pre-existing conditions, to continue visiting the health facility in order to keep healthy in the face of Covid-19. Photo: Paul Reichle

“We find that this time of year more patients come to the clinic due to the change in weather and I haven’t really seen any change in numbers. A lot of people have come in because they are concerned about Covid-19 and want more information. We’ve also had a very positive response to the screening at the gate because they see we’re taking it seriously.”

Sim urges community members, particularly those with pre-existing health conditions such as HIV, diabetes or hypertension to continue to come to the clinic to receive health treatment and stay on their prescribed medications.

“We’re fully aware that people don’t want to be exposed to this virus and may be nervous about coming to the clinic, but the research around the coronavirus shows us that those who suffer from these sorts of illnesses are more at risk. My advice to everyone is please keep picking up and taking your medication. If you’re not well, come and see us and we’ll also educate you on hygiene methods.

“I want the community to know that we really care about people, our patients and ourselves and don’t want to see this virus spread,” Sim concluded.

By:Robyn Kirk

Source: Fourways Review