Katrina steps up work during pandemic

Community health worker Katrina Jacobs.

A Heinz Park community health worker has walked the streets of informal settlements and visited backyard dwellings to conduct door-to-door health visits to her tuberculosis (TB) patients amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Katrina Jacobs, 42, works for non-profit organisation Arisen Women, in Mitchell’s Plain, which had been contracted by the Western Cape Government’s Department of Health.

Ms Jacobs said she was passionate about her work and if patients were not coming to the clinic, then she would fetch them and lead them back to their health.

“I ask the nurses to give me the medication and information of those TB patients who are not attending the clinic and I fetch them at home and pay their taxi fare if they can’t afford to attend the clinic for their scheduled check up with the doctor.

“Many of my patients are taking their TB medication, but they either forget their appointment date with the doctor, are under the influence of substances, or are too scared to come to the clinic to see the doctor because they fear that they will get the coronavirus at the clinic,” she said.

Ms Jacobs said she ensured that they wore their masks and attended the clinic with her.

“Most are willing but some run away when they hear that I am searching for them.

“But I eventually find them and lead them back to the clinic,” she said.

Ms Jacobs conducts door-to-door visits when patients are not accessing services at the Weltevreden Clinic and when she receives patient home visit referrals from the Department’s Klipfontein and Mitchell’s Plain Substructure’s community-based services co-ordinators after the nurse conducts her home visit.

Ms Jacobs has continued to serve her community with extra caution during the pandemic.

“I am so sad that I can’t enter my patients’ homes any longer.

“I have to screen and educate people outside while they are talking to me from a distance but I express my care to them through my body language and excited hand and arm gestures,” she said.

Ms Jacobs said the Covid-19 screening tool and the department’s healthcare team on call made it easy to determine whether patients had TB or Covid-19 and they could be referred for testing or to safely isolate at home.

“I wear my uniform, mask and visor and only enter the patient’s home if the person is bedridden and there is no other family member at home to assist with medication and care, but this is a rare experience during Covid-19.”

Ms Jacobs has a five-year-old son and an elderly family member with comorbidities.

She therefore takes extra caution to make sure she keeps them safe.

She ensures that she undresses and disinfects herself before entering her home, as well as washing her hands often and thoroughly.

“I am aware that Covid-19 is infecting our loved ones, but I don’t fear this virus because my faith is strong and the bible tells me that God has not given me the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind,” she said.

Ms Jacobs said she uses this verse as a method of motivation to face each day working as a Covid-19 frontline worker.

Her resilience is dedicated to the hardship she experienced when caring for her father who suffered from and succumbed to TB years ago.

“Those years my family didn’t know how to take care of my father properly because he was stubborn, and I was the only one who could care for him because I am just as thick-skinned as he was,” she said.

“We used to live in Philippi and those years we never had taxis or transport, so I used to carry my dad on my back to the Phillipi Clinic for his treatment,” she recalled.

She loved caring for her father, which ignited a compassionate fire and desire within her to care for elderly people and those with a life-threatening illness.

“I want to inspire other women to persevere and be joyful in challenging times.

“Be caring, kind and loving towards others, as you don’t know what their life story is and what they are going through,” she said.

Her supervisor Chantal Scoble, at Arisen Women, said Ms Jacobs once asked her for the medication of a Covid-19 positive client, a few days after she had tracked the person down.

“She happily delivered the person’s medication to the new address.

“She went in her own time to search for the patient and asked at various homes where the person had relocated.

“She goes the extra mile, is
passionate, hard-working, funny and she loves the community,” she said.

Ms Scoble said during the national Covid-19 lockdown a violent protest erupted in Heinz Park but Ms Jacobs made sure that her colleague was safely escorted out of the area by using a rake to clear the burning tyres so that she could drive through.