During this pandemic, frontline workers such as healthcare practitioners have had to confront COVID-19 daily. Dr Sindi Van Zyl is one of those frontline workers.
Dr Van Zyl specialises in HIV and women’s health and works in the private healthcare sector, so when the lockdown was implemented in March 2020, she was able to continue sending patients their medical results via social media.
However, in October 2020 she returned to her practice for face to face consultations and she found that quite challenging since many of her patients were too scared of leaving their homes due to the current pandemic. Even though patients needed to be seen by a medical practitioner, they refused because of their fear of being infected.
Most practices, especially general practitioner practices, rely on walk-ins for common illnesses, like the flu and minor ailments, since they account for the bulk of the patients that they treat. While chronic ailments are also important, walk-ins were more frequent.
Due to current times, fewer people have been visiting their medical practitioners for face to face consultations which has caused many practices to close their doors due to lack of finances.
Dr Van Zyl, fortunately, was able to conduct online consultations with her patients which could be claimed from Medical Aid, however, they did not pay as much as contact consultations.
Although she can find alternative ways of seeing her patients, she still finds it difficult financially.
Many other practitioners have had to let some of their staff go due to the lack of patients and finances.
To keep all her patients safe, Dr Van Zyl has spaced her patients out so that there is a 15-minute window between each patient. In those 15 minutes, she ensures that all her equipment is sanitized and that all her surfaces are washed down to prepare for the next patient.
Although these are scary times, she has stressed that health practitioners have to keep working to ensure the health and safety of everyone that needs help.
"My plea for South Africans is that you can't default on your chronic medication. Yes, we are in a very scary time but if we default on medication now, in two or three years, we're going to feel the after-effects of what's happening now," said Dr Van Zyl.
People are also encouraged to visit their GP if they need to and not to wait until things to become worse.
Everyone all over the world has been feeling fatigued due to the current pandemic, especially healthcare workers who are on the frontline, which is why healthcare workers network has been started to provide emotional support to the healthcare practitioners.
Healthcare workers are encouraged to make use of that support so that they can get the help that they need before they burn out. These practitioners may be wired to keep on working despite the circumstances, however, it is not worth it if they end up sacrificing their own wellbeing.