Free State’s first Covid-19 related death was recorded last week, and the province is currently rolling out a mass Covid-19 screening campaign. But some parts of the Free State are still operating as per usual.
In Bethlehem the atmosphere is mostly normal, as people are still roaming in the streets — and grocery stores still have long queues of people, some of whom are practising social distancing, others of whom aren’t.
However, social grant collection sites are generally complying with lockdown rules — officials provide hand sanitizer to social grant collectors before entering the building, and before using the ATM to get their grant.
One Bethlehem resident, Nikiwe Mabizela*, says she doesn’t believe in the virus because it “only affects white people”.
But, government officials are quick to dismiss such rhetoric.
“As the Mayor of Dihlabeng I plead with the community to self-isolate so that we fight Coronavirus together,” says Lindiwe Makhalema in a recent address.
Tsediso Maitse, Communications Officer at Dihlabeng Local Municipality says that the municipality has undertaken major cleaning and sanitizing, and has also been spreading the word about Covid-19 preventative measures. In tandem with working with the department of health, the municipality has been working with a number of departments, and policing services such as the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
“Covid-19 is a complicated operation, and the Department of Health is handling it with care,” says spokesperson of the provincial health department, Mondli Mvambi.
Mphohadi clinic ready to assist
OurHealth spoke to healthcare workers at the Mphohadi Clinic, in Bohlokong, Bethlehem, to find out their plans for tackling Covid-19 in the area.
The clinic has allocated Room Five, one of their consultation rooms, as a space to assist patients who are suspected to have contracted coronavirus. In the clinic, a certain number of people are allowed to enter, and the other patients are allocated space outside the building, with a one metre distance between them. Once the patients inside are helped, a nurse comes outside to call patients according to their medical needs.
Patients with chronic illnesses are seen first.
Esther Mofokeng, a resident who uses the clinic and suffers from diabetes, says she normally arrives early to the clinic “to avoid standing for hours in the queue.”
“I have never been in the queue for long, and I’m so happy they prioritise us — people with chronic illness — first because it’s not easy [with diabetes].”
Staff members prepped, but community isn’t
According to Maseiso Lydia Maqelepa, the clinic manager, on 1 April they saw a patient who presented with Covid-19 symptoms.
“We had a suspect who had all the symptoms of coronavirus, and we assisted him at the clinic. We then called an ambulance, referring him to Dihlabeng Hospital for more tests to be done. I always make sure that my staff members have a mask on and sanitize their hands regularly.”
“Social distancing is being practiced but people are still doing what they please,” adds Maqelepa.
Lefa Motloung, a queue marshal and cleaner at the clinic, agrees with Maqelepa, saying that patients think the rules are created arbitrarily.
“Our community is not well informed [about lockdown procedures] and they tend to get angry when I tell them about social distancing protocols. They say I make-up the rules.”
Motloung says that the community is aware that Covid-19 is deadly, but that it’s difficult for community members to follow through on the proper preventative measures because of a lack of resources.
“What is surprising is that our community knows how dangerous this virus is, but still when coming to the clinic they bring their children, who don’t need clinic services, with them. When we ask them why, they say that ‘They don’t have nannies to look after them’.”
“I desperately wish that our people would listen when we give instructions, so that we can fight the virus,” adds Mothloung, pleadingly.
Motloung tells OurHealth that non-compliant chronic illness patients “hurts [her] the most.”
“Some patients who take ARVs don’t come to the clinic to collect medication, and it’s gotten to the point where Right to Care has had to step in to help us. They fetch patients from their homes, and we’re honored to have Right to Care by our side.”
Patients with chronic illness are rendered more vulnerable to Covid-19, and so the care that both Mphohadi Clinic and Right to Care offers the community will become even more vital in the coming months. The clinic has increased its operating times to include Saturday — from 07:30am to 16:30pm. — Health-e News
*Not real name
For more information on Covid-19 in South Africa, you can call the toll-free line on 0800 029 999, or you can send a message that says “Hi” on WhatsApp to the number 060 012 3456. You can also visit the SA Coronavirus website.