It is easy to say that no one could have predicted the impact that Covid-19 would play in our lives as ordinary South African citizens. When we were called to lockdown – we obliged, giving government and healthcare important time to prepare for what was coming.
We stayed home, we socially distanced ourselves, and we carried out weekly shopping with caution. But what many community members failed to take into account was the importance of regular screening and healthcare check-ups during this lockdown period. For many, these were not carried out, and in some cases have contributed to the decline in health of those with chronic conditions.
Another very important section of our community is our young children, those born just before the pandemic arrived and those that greeted a strange new world in recent months.
Dr Ashley Wewege, Paediatrician at Mediclinic Constantiaberg, highlights the importance of getting back on track with these young children.
“The biggest concern in the Paediatric world at the beginning of the pandemic was the realisation that there would, in all likelihood, be massive disruptions to basic medical services, specifically vaccinations,” he explains.
“We have seen this delay in seeking check-ups and failure to present babies for vaccinations play out across our country, and indeed across the world.”
Dr Wewege cautions, “Fortunately, looking at the latest data obtained directly from the Department of Health, it would seem that we have been largely successful in managing some of these concerns and our vaccination rates have not dropped significantly. However, Covid-19 is not simply going to go away and we cannot allow other vaccine preventable illnesses (measles, pertussis, pneumococcal disease and rotavirus to name a few) to gain a foothold in our community and reverse all the hard-won gains pre 2020.
For this reason, Dr Wewege is encouraging parents to review the vaccination schedules and to consult with their paediatrician, GP or local clinic to plan a route of catching up any missed vaccinations.
“It is not just vaccinations that need to be managed. Children with chronic conditions such as asthma, epilepsy – even ADHD – need to be monitored by their healthcare provider to manage the child’s health and prevent any deterioration of these conditions.”
“While the ‘second-wave’, multiple positive tests and various testing options remain the talk in the community, one thing is for certain – Covid-19 will be here in 2021 as well,” explains Dr Wewege.
“With that in mind, it is important to make the mindset shift – it becomes critical to keep up with the usual medical issues – preventative health care is always far preferable than curative healthcare; put in other words, it is far preferable to stay healthy and prevent illness, than it is to end up getting ill and having to receive treatment.”
This is where it is important for the community to make considered decisions, rather than reacting to fake news and community rumours.
“During the lockdown periods, there was a ‘fear’ of seeking healthcare at hospitals as it was felt (erroneously) that this was where you would contract the illness. Nothing could have been further from the truth in that hospitals were (and still are) probably the safest places to receive your health care,” he explains.
“Mediclinic Constantiaberg, as with other Mediclinic hospitals, has all the measures in place to safely receive patients. We have the necessary PPE for healthcare workers; there is active screening for all staff, patients and individuals visiting the hospital. All patients are tested on admission, to fully understand their condition. And social distancing and masking protocols are being applied within our hospital,” Dr Wewege reassures.
“For this reason – while it has been an interesting period in healthcare in our country – my plea is that trust in the traditional healthcare system should prevail. I encourage you to seek out care, whether it is for a routine health check, emergency care or for a vaccination per schedule. Please allow us to assist you in managing your health and not putting yourself at further risk,” he concludes.
Written by: Dr Ashley Wewege, Paediatrician at Mediclinic Constantiaberg