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Hospitals remain open for medical emergencies and resumes necessary patient admissions safely during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is having an unparalleled impact on our way of life but social distancing and lockdown should not prevent anyone from seeking medical attention even if unrelated to COVID-19.

Members of the public should continue consulting their general practitioners for chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension and other illnesses.  Medical conditions such as these require ongoing monitoring and care and, the basic principle of early intervention in order to reduce the risks of more serious complications still applies.

Importantly, the public should not stay away from the hospital’s emergency unit in the event of a medical emergency. “If someone is having a heart attack or stroke, being diagnosed and treated quickly can significantly improve their chances of recovery. The fear of the risk of COVID-19 exposure or infection should not prevent people from seeking urgent medical attention at the hospital’s emergency unit”, says Dr Charl van Loggerenberg, Life Healthcare’s General Manager: Emergency Medicine.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, or who has sustained serious head injury or other major injuries, loss of consciousness, coughing up or vomiting blood, poisoning or drug overdose, severe burns or other medical emergencies, or who have severe COVID-19 symptoms should get to the nearest hospital emergency unit as quickly as possible.

“We urge the community to phone the emergency unit before arrival where possible, particularly if you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. This will ensure that staff can prepare for your arrival to get you screened and treat you for your medical condition as quickly and safely as possible,” added Dr van Loggerenberg.

All patients coming to the emergency unit are routinely screened for COVID-19 symptoms and are provided a mask to help maintain the health and safety of our patients and caregivers and prevent the spread of the virus. In addition, emergency unit nurses, doctors and staff all wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow stringent clinical and infection prevention protocols that are aligned to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases’ (NICD) guidelines. 

Patients suspected of being exposed to the virus or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are taken to a separate designated area for care. If they meet the NICD testing criteria, they will receive the necessary emergency care, including being tested for COVID-19. If well enough to do so, they will be sent home to self-isolate whilst waiting for test results. Should the emergency care require hospital admission, the doctor will have the patient tested for COVID-19 if appropriate and they will be cared for in an isolation unit within the facility.

Life Healthcare hospitals across the country, has resumed necessary surgeries following the relaxation of the hard lockdown that served to manage the spread of COVID-19.

A hospital COVID-19 doctor and management task team and committee is in place to continually review and monitor the COVID-19 situation.

“Our staff and doctors have all received guidance as to the process and steps required for safe patient admissions. This guidance is based on the input received from numerous doctor professional societies, pathology groups, Life Healthcare hospital COVID-19 committees, supporting doctors as well as international best practise,” added van Loggerenberg.

Doctors, who are independent healthcare professionals and not employed by the hospital, are responsible for managing the criteria and indications for admission of their patients. Patients will receive instructions from their doctor about the admissions process and infection prevention and safety requirements. Testing will be funded where indicated by the patient’s medical scheme according to scheme rules.

Life Healthcare will continually review the situation at each of its hospitals in order to assess the risks as well as to identify and share best practice in the interests of doctors, patients, our staff and supporting service personnel.

We urge members of the public who are concerned that they may need COVID-19 testing, to please phone or consult with their General Practitioner or contact the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) on the following support numbers: NICD WhatsApp support line - 0600 123 456 OR the NICD 24-hour hotline - 0800 029 999/ 0800 111 132. 

Important hospital information to be aware of:

The following key measures have been put in place for the safety of patients, doctors, staff and visitors and to limit the spread of infection, in accordance with best practice infection prevention standards:

  •  Infection prevention measures at doctors’ consultation rooms may include:
    • Spacing between waiting room chairs
    • Frequent hand sanitising
    • Healthcare workers’ use of face masks and shields, gowns and gloves
    • Restrictions on accompaniment to consultation rooms
    • Special consent form regarding the unusual circumstances and increased overall risk linked to the COVID-19 outbreak
    • More frequent telephonic rather than in-person consultations 
  • Routine screening of all persons entering our facilities to identify present signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection to establish the risk of exposure
  • Restricted visiting hours and access to all Life Healthcare facilities 
  • Universal masking: all healthcare workers, employees, outsourced services and persons entering / admitted to the facility – are required to wear a mask at all times 
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to all employees and doctors in line with clinical standards. Employees trained on the appropriate use of PPE 
  • Social distancing enforced throughout all areas of Life Healthcare facilities 
  • Environmental cleaning according to infection prevention standards; surfaces regularly disinfected 
  • Only essential access is granted to third-party service providers and supplier representatives 
  • Individual risk assessments are conducted on any exposed personnel to guide the prevention of transmission
  • Continuous education provided to community members regarding the importance of hand hygiene, cough etiquette and maintaining social distancing as effective measures to limit the spread of infection