The South African medical profession not unlike many other sectors in the business world has been subjected to great stress because of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
Apart from health workers risking their lives in the front line to treat infected patients, those in private practice also have problems of their own.
Two medical professionals in private practice, who are experiencing some of the challenges brought on by the crisis first hand, have shared their insights.
Dr Deidré Reed started her own practice as a family doctor a few months ago, and Sister Lydia Krijt has been running a private nursing service for almost two decades.
Both are based at the Arun Place Business Park, next to Mediclinic Vergelegen, Somerset West.
For Dr Reed, the Covid-19 crises could not have come at a worst time.
She made the bold move in September last year to resign as a medical officer from the Western Cape government medical services, and start up her own practice as a family doctor in Somerset West.
“It took me a few months to settle in, and by March this year my practice started to tick over quite nicely.
“Then on March 26, the national lockdown was enforced, and the flow of patients to my practice diminished to a trickle,” says Dr Reed.
“But we had to apply the new rules of the lockdown and educate ourselves on how to manage the Covid-19 crises.
“I attended two workshops on Covid-19 management at Vergelegen Mediclinic, and also continually log in to webinars to stay up to date with the latest developments.
“Pre-screening and telephonic consultations are now important parts of our armoury to fend off the Covid-19 threat,” she said.
“We are also extremely grateful that the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has allowed video and other electronic consultations, and that most of the medical funds reimburse us for this service,” says Dr Reed.
The clampdown on non-emergency or elective surgery has also affected the normally busy private nursing practice of Sister Krijt adversely.
Until the lockdown in March she, and her team were seeing numerous patients a day, which included house visits in the Helderberg Basin, Stellenbosch and further afield.
Apart from post-operative nursing care and support, they also provide a wide range of specialised services such as advanced wound care, stoma care, peg care, continence management, chronic diabetic and cancer wounds management, as well as regular blood pressure, blood sugar, urine tests and IV therapy.
“The normal feed of patients who need care after elective surgery has of course dried up but we still have a wide base of patients who need constant supervision especially those with diabetic wounds, stoma bags and pain control management via infusions and injections,” says Sister Krijt.
“Most of these patient are house-bound and can only move around with great difficulty. We are therefore obliged to visit them personally as they need hands-on assistance.
“Teleconferencing simply does not work in most of these cases. We do however screen patients telephonically before our visits as required by the Covid-19 regulations to make sure that they have not been exposed to the virus,” said Sister Krijt.
“We are also privileged to be stationed at the Arun Place Business Park where there are a number of supporting health and medical services available, such as two medical laboratories, a dietician, physiotherapists, orthotist, dentists and plastic surgeons.
“We are also very practically situated, being within walking distance from the Vergelegen Mediclinic,” says Sister Krijt.
Dr Reed and Sister Krijt are both of the opinion that although there is a slow return to the normal flow of patients, many more could already suffer from ailments which are totally unrelated to Covid-19.
Their advice therefore is to call on a doctor for a check-up if you suspect that you are not well, rather than stay away because of the fear of a Covid-19 infection.