Curve is flattening

Inside a Covid-19 testing booth is Ricardo Mackenzie, Western Cape Provincial Parliament and constituency head of the DA for Mitchells Plain. With him are Dr Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services; Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Anroux Marais and Ward councillor Joan Woodman, for Woodlands, Colorado Park and surrounding areas. The booth was stationed at the temporary Covid-19 overflow centre at Colorado Park community hall.

The number of people infected with Covid-19 is stabilising and starting to decline in some areas of the Western Cape.

Premier Alan Winde announced this during a digital press conference on Friday July 31 when he gave an update on the provincial government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last week, Dr Keith Cloete, head of the provincial Department of Health, speaking at the opening of a new ward for Covid-19 patients at Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital to extend the Covid-19 services offered by the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital, cautioned that residents should remain vigilant.

He also said that the ward, made possible by a R10 million donation by the Gift of the Givers Foundation, was an investment and would be used beyond Covid-19.

“Over the past few weeks, we have seen a flattening in some of our key indicators of infections in the Western Cape, while increases are seen elsewhere in the country,” he said.

Covid-19 screening and testing occurs every day Monday to Friday , from 8am until 2pm, at the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital dental building.

Patients requiring referral to the next level of care are swabbed in the trauma unit prior to being referred.

Monique Johnstone, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, said the hospital does not have an intensive care unit and all patients requiring critical care and treatment were transferred to Groote Schuur Hospital.

She said for July 509 people were swabbed for Covid-19, which is an average of 22 people a day.

For the first week in August, 61 people were tested, which is an average of 12 people a day.

“Outreaches are scheduled weekly in various areas at community halls. The upcoming non-Covid-19 community wellness outreaches for August are planned for Portland, Lentegeur and Woodlands,” Ms Johnstone said.

Heinz Park, Montrose Park, Eastridge, Tafelsig and Beacon Valley have already been covered.

Ms Johnstone said they would be reintroducing a comprehensive package of care in the community and wellness screening has not been limited to tuberculosis (TB).

“Our community health workers (CHWs) are screening only and not testing for Covid-19,” she said.

CHWs visit households to screen for TB and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart conditions and hypertension.

They are also responsible for child health, including immunisations and weighing, the overall well-being of patients, especially mental health patients, newborn babies, children younger than 5, pregnant women and the elderly. They also check whether patients take their medication and adhere to follow-up appointments.

Ms Johnstone said irrespective of the downward curve in the number of Covid-19 infections in the province, the department still needed to ensure precautionary measures were adhered to for the safety of all patients and staff, when reintroducing services to full capacity.

She said its extension of services would be planned more strategically to assist people in the interim while adhering to social distancing measures, hand hygiene and mask wearing.

She said community wellness outreaches were being conducted for non-Covid-19 patients at various community halls each month for child and women’s health, chronic disease management and screening, TB screening, prenatal check-ups, oral health promotion and education and eye care.

“The community-based services are slowly reintroducing a comprehensive package of healthcare again,” said Ms Johnstone.

She urged residents to continue to wear their masks whenever they leave their home.

“Open all windows when using public transport and try to stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. If you have not been taking your chronic medication as prescribed, make an appointment at your usual clinic to discuss the way forward with your healthcare worker or access the Pocket Clinic healthbot,” she said. This is an automated Chatbot application system via the WhatsApp platform, which confirms delivery of chronic medication to patients’ homes

The City of Cape Town’s health department is also on a drive to kick-start general primary healthcare provision, affected by the impact of Covid-19.

They said in recent months there was a notable decline in the number of patients accessing some of the key services that the City’s 104 clinics provide, due to the national lockdown, but also feared possible exposure to the virus.

Services affected include child immunisations, but also screening for both communicable and non-communicable diseases such as TB, HIV and diabetes.

The City has since introduced a raft of measures to ensure access and provision of primary healthcare services, while playing its part in managing the Covid-19 pandemic, through screening, testing and public education.

These have included: increased measures in clinics to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 infection among staff; a project that will result in the establishment of 80 overflow facilities at clinics; mobile testing booths for Covid-19; additional expanded public works personnel to assist the public education and awareness efforts of environmental health; and the fast-tracking of more than 100 vacancies within the health department.

Dr Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for community services, said they have learned so much over the past few months.

In June there were ongoing clinic closures due to Covid-19 exposure but no clinics were closed last month.

Staff have adapted to the “new normal” and measures have been put in place to see them through the pandemic. “We commend their grit and determination amid very trying circumstances,” Dr Badroodien said.

He said in recent weeks the Cape metropole has experienced a slowdown in the number of new Covid-19 cases reported, as well as fatalities linked to the virus. “Of the overall case load, approximately 88% have recovered,” he said.

He said the statistics were encouraging but that it was premature to view the pandemic in the rear-view mirror.

“So we encourage residents to take care of their general health and well-being. We have done a lot of work to make our clinics safe spaces, and I invite our clients to return so that we can get our primary healthcare services back on track,” he said.

BLOB To access the pocket clinic app, add the number 087 240 6122 to your contacts on your cellphone. Send a “Hi” text via WhatsApp to update your contact details and you can then query your chronic medication delivery.

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