This is how local doctors are safeguarding their patients from infection


Cough? Fever? A forbidding sense that all is not right? Given that the coronavirus has officially touched down on South African soil, it makes sense that you would want to revert to your local health-care provider.

But doctors and nurses aren’t immune to infection simply by virtue of the fact that they treat sickness. Given that they are our first port of call when we aren’t well, at this point they are particularly vulnerable to exposure.

If you fail to familiarise yourself with the safety protocols that GPs, hospitals, and even dentists are starting to encourage among their patients, you could unwittingly put the task force upon which we are most reliant woefully at risk.

One of the health-care professionals who has put such protocols into place is Dr Michael Setzer, a GP practising in Norwood, Johannesburg. He sent out a detailed missive to his patients last week, urging them to alert his staff before coming in to be screened for Covid-19.

It stated that once you’ve been assigned an appointment — and after you’ve washed your hands and covered “your mouth and nose with a mask or a facecloth" — you can leave the confines of your house. However, once you arrive at Setzer's rooms you must remain in your car, message the staff and await further instructions.

This is because Setzer’s staff want to help you in making your way to an isolation room without, for instance, touching door handles or ringing the bell.

Setzer advised his clients that the doctor on call will then “examine you wearing gloves, a mask and an apron to prevent any spread", in the course of which you will be swabbed to test for infection.

In a similar vein, Netcare recommends that individuals who are concerned they might be infected with Covid-19 should call their health-care provider (be it a doctor, clinic, or hospital emergency department) to forewarn them that they are coming in for screening.

“This will enable the staff at the facility to take the appropriate precautionary measures to receive the person in order to ensure the doctors at the facility are safeguarded while the person is being assessed,” explained a Netcare representative.  

It seems almost every sector of the medical fraternity is trying to do its part to quell the spread of the virus.

Dr Simon Hatchuel, a dentist with rooms in Sandton, has sent out a text advising his patients that, should they start to exhibit flu-like symptoms, they must notify his practice, and the same applies to patients who have recently been travelling. Their existing appointments will be postponed for two weeks.

Additionally, Dr Hatchuel’s receptionist will be wearing a mask to minimise exposure, and patients will be required to spray their hands with sanitiser on entering the premises.

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times Lifestyle section.