With the country going into total lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Zoutpansberg Private Hospital has introduced additional safety measures at the hospital. The main entrance is now the only entrance to the hospital for everybody, including staff. All visitors and staff are also now screened in a screening area for possible infection before being allowed to enter.
Date: 28 March 2020 By: Andries van Zyl
Although some people might have suspected that President Cyril Ramaphosa would announce a total lockdown of South Africa, it still came as a wake-up call to many regarding the seriousness of the coronavirus, with Limpopo having confirmed four cases and more than 700 cases nationally by Wednesday morning.
Sadly, a lot of misconceptions still exist about the virus. The Zoutpansberger spoke to the Zoutpansberg Private Hospital’s manager, Ms Anneke Stroebel, and the hospital’s training nurse, Ms Majha de Lange, to get some facts.
“Polokwane Provincial Hospital is the only admissions hospital for coronavirus cases. Having said that, the Netcare Pholoso Hospital in Polokwane is prepared. They are the coordinators of the private hospitals. We do not do admissions of COVID-19 cases,” said Stroebel.
Stroebel added, however, that even Polokwane Provincial would only treat severe and critical cases. “The rest will be placed in self-isolation. They will be treated at their homes. If shortness of breath is experienced, they will probably end up in our hospital in our isolation room but will be transferred to Polokwane,” said Stroebel.
At present, seven criteria form part of the working definition for infection with the coronavirus. “The working definition is, first of all, high fever. Then there is dry cough and sore throat, and shortness of breath. Most interesting is that it must be a dry cough, not a wet cough. Then there are a few symptoms that may differ from patient to patient, including body aches or sore wrists. Also important is that you should have travelled abroad or have had contact with somebody who recently travelled abroad. Most recently, it also includes having travelled to a local area with a high incidence of coronavirus cases, such as Gauteng or the Western Cape. Any contact with a health worker, including home-based nurses and hospital staff - such as maintenance staff and even administrative staff - is now also a possible criterion for being infected,” said De Lange.
Regarding the above criteria, Stroebel said that they had had incidents of people coming to the hospital and asking to be tested. “Some have come and demanded to be tested and admitted immediately. This we do not need at this stage. Remember, we cannot test anybody. Only a patient’s doctor can ask for a person to be tested and then a specific process must be followed,” said Stroebel.
Stroebel and De Lange stressed the fact that people cannot demand to be tested. “These tests are only done on high-risk and very sick people and only per doctor’s instruction. You cannot just walk into a hospital and demand to be tested because you are scared. What people need to realize is that, nationally and worldwide, only a limited number of these tests are available. Because of the limited numbers of these tests and because they are expensive, hospital and clinics do not have these tests; only the NICD and the country’s main laboratories have them. That is why you only get tested after a doctor instructs the laboratory to perform the test,” said Stroebel. “No reason exists for you to be tested if you do not show symptoms of the virus or have been in contact with a high-risk person or were in a high-risk area. People must realize that if you are tested unnecessarily, you have wasted a test that could have helped a critically ill person,” added De Lange.
Regarding the wearing of face masks and protective gloves, Stroebel and De Lange said that many misconceptions existed about these as well. “The question is, who should wear masks? A sick person or high-risk person with a low immune system should wear a mask. If you are not sick and you are wearing a mask, you are taking away a mask from somebody who really needs it. To walk around in town with a mask thinking you will protect yourself serves no purpose if you are not sick and have had no contact with a person with the disease. Don’t use it if you don’t need it,” said De Lange.
Regarding the wearing of protective gloves, De Lange said many misconceptions were prevalent here as well. “If you think wearing protective gloves will help combat the spread of the disease, you are mistaken. All that you are doing when wearing gloves is not washing your hands. You literally spread the disease more easily by wearing gloves because you are not washing your hands. In the meantime, you are touching everything and getting into contact with other people,” said De Lange.
Regarding the above, Stroebel stressed once again the importance of washing your hands regularly with normal soap. “Most people in rural areas can’t afford expensive hand sanitizer. Normal soap works just as well, if not better. Soap literally breaks down the virus. The more you wash, the more quickly you break it down,” said Stroebel. “Anyway, most people getting sprayed with hand sanitizer at entrance doors don’t use it correctly. Rubbing your hands together for a few seconds does not help. You literally have to rub the sanitizer in between your fingers as well as the back of your hands for at least 20 seconds,” added De Lange.
Stroebel said that now was not the time to panic, adding that the health-care sector, from local to government level, was working hard behind the scenes and acting pro-actively. “We are all taking the situation seriously. If this virus starts spreading in our villages, we will struggle to contain it. That is the main reason the total lockdown was called for,” said Stroebel.
To help slow down the spread of the virus, both Stroebel and De Lange urged people to adhere to the call for total isolation during the lockdown period. “With the lockdown, the most important thing people should remember is social distancing. A metre, metre-and-a-half to two metres between people. If a person is sick, definitely at least two metres. Do not touch, do not do the feet thing and do not do the elbow thing. You or the other person might have just coughed in your or their own elbow,” said Stroebel. “I recently heard a saying that goes: ‘Stop fearing the virus but start fearing to spread it’. This is the message to people: Stop giving the virus lungs to multiply, since it can only connect and multiply in your lungs,” concluded De Lange.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.