Vaccination Employee Day University of Pretoria Develops Best Practice Protocol for COVID-19 Screening
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The University of Pretoria’s Department of Family Medicine (DFM) has developed a highly efficient COVID-19 screening protocol that provides holistic health support to communities in need.


Pretoria, South Africa (22 April 2020) -The University of Pretoria has developed holistic health support and screening protocol in vulnerable communities!

South Africa has been rocked by the devastating effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, a crashing economy and a national lockdown that has left the destitute with even more devastation. There is a critical need for holistic health interventions to address poverty competently – and ultimately, to impede the spread of the virus within our most vulnerable, high-density communities.

The University of Pretoria’s Department of Family Medicine (DFM) has developed a highly efficient COVID-19 screening protocol that provides holistic health support to Pretoria’s communities in need. There is a huge opportunity for government, as well as organisations looking to address this pandemic, to adopt this proficient protocol and partner with the department to curb the spread and effects of COVID-19.

For over 7 years, the DFM has established itself as a partner for health care for the most vulnerable communities in Tshwane. Community Orientated Primary Care (COPC), a service-learning model of the Family Medicine Department, has established an efficient, holistic health support network for three informal settlements in Pretoria.

In each of these informal settlements, which include Zama Zama, Melusi and Woodlane Village, weekly clinics are offered, and residents from the respective communities are employed as community health workers (CHW) who conduct visits to up to 250 assigned households. These CHWs work under the leadership of the Family Medicine UP team, led by Dr Ellenore Meyer.

“We believe person-centric care is critical in addressing poverty. We get to know our community, so we know how to help them – and we’ve spent years establishing a trusted relationship with them. Our holistic health support approach focuses on four essential components: health, social stability, education and opportunity,” says Meyer.

With the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, the CHW teams on each site were specially trained by Meyer. This training was based on a specific protocol developed based on input from infectious disease specialists, as well as the DFM’s extensive research and experience in managing infectious diseases (including TB) in vulnerable communities.

“With nearly a decade of experience, an established infrastructure and network, as well as expert, research-led input, our team is well-positioned to provide highly-effective screening, support and relief to affected communities,” says Meyer.

The COVID-19 screening protocol that Meyer and her team are running includes the non-clinical contact screening of patients in communities by a medical team. Symptomatic patients are then isolated, with food support, and regular follow up from outside households by CHWs. The protocol also includes the treatment and screening of other acute and chronic conditions such as HIV, diabetes, hypertension and TB with appropriate referral.

“The critical need goes beyond the mere screening for COVID-19, but supporting the chronic care needs of patients,” says Professor Jannie Hugo, HOD of the DFM.

Proper nutrition plays an important role in health and immunity – which is difficult to achieve in destitute households. The University of Pretoria works in collaboration with several NGOs, including LIFT, SA Cares, Matter, Rotary and the ISF Forum. These partnerships provide a valuable resource to mobilise funds and distribute food packages, developed by dietician, Marion Beeforth, to thousands of people from food-insecure families during the lockdown period in South Africa.

The team has huge concerns about the devastating effects that the COVID-19 virus could inflict should it start spreading through the high-density informal settlements that are burdened by water and sanitation limitations.

However, the team is confident that their clinical protocol, together with strong network partners, provide the competencies needed to take this crisis time head-on.

Sources: University of Pretoria 
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