Doctor fears for his life as pandemic heads towards its peak in Gauteng

03 July 2020 - 15:17 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
A Gauteng doctor says he fears for his life as the Covid-19 pandemic is set to reach its peak in the province.
A Gauteng doctor says he fears for his life as the Covid-19 pandemic is set to reach its peak in the province.
Image: REUTERS / Eduardo Munoz

With the Covid-19 pandemic set to reach its peak in Gauteng soon, a Johannesburg-based doctor says he fears for his and his family's lives.

Dr Sindile Simama, a general practitioner in Soweto, told TimesLIVE that since the start of the lockdown he had been inundated with calls and visits from patients who were worried about contracting Covid-19. Most wanted to test to make sure they were in the clear.

But in the past two weeks, Simama said he had seen a spike in patients testing positive.

“A lot of these infections have been people who have had contact with a positive colleague, and others, a positive friend or family member.

“With the relaxation of the regulations there’s been a lot of interaction among people on a social level despite the government urging all of us to only go out for essentials and work purposes,” Simama said.

According to Simama, the workplace has been a major contributor to the spike in cases.

“Some people do not disclose their status to their employers and fellow colleagues for fear of victimisation or the stigma that comes with a positive result. They would continue going to work in spite of knowing the result and only divulge this information when they are quite ill,” said Simama.

The fear of losing one’s job has also led to people not disclosing their status, the doctor said.

“With a lot of people having lost their jobs since lockdown, more and more are fearful that they will lose theirs should they be off work for the 14 days of self-quarantine and opt not to disclose,” Simama said.

He said infections had also increased during the winter.

“With winter upon us, there have been a lot of patients consulting for what seems like a regular common cold, but upon further probing and testing more and more people have tested positive (for the coronavirus).

“Patients come through thinking they’re just having a cold, but unfortunately this puts even more people (both other patients and us health personnel) at risk.”

As someone who comes into contact with a lot of people, Simama says he fears contracting the virus and infecting his loved ones.

“I’ve been on an emotional roller-coaster in the past two weeks with more downs than ups. With more and more positive results coming through, I am getting even more fearful for my life, my staff, my family and even other patients that come through to the practice.

“As much as I do my best to keep myself protected, there is always that chance that I will catch this virus too. I’ve had sleepless nights thinking about what seems to be inevitable, being infected by the virus.”

Keeping in touch with his colleagues for survival tips and moral support has kept Simama going.

“It helps though to keep in touch with other colleagues for moral, psychological and emotional support. Knowing that I am not alone provides some kind of relief.

“My partner, friends and family have been very supportive as well and, truly speaking, I don’t know how I would’ve survived this far without that kind of support,” he said.

Simama advises those who test positive not to stress.

 “Self-isolate — this means no contact with other individuals both at home and outside; wear your mask all the time even inside the house. Follow general precautionary measures because you don’t want to pass the virus to anyone else.

“Only get advice from qualified individuals. Eat healthy and exercise.”

To prevent the virus from spreading, Simama says people should ensure:

  • they wear their masks all the time;
  • they wash their hands with soap and water or sanitise; and
  • they only go out for essentials and if you can work from home, to do so.

“We are approaching the peak and the safest place is your home. If you had to go shopping or to work, please take off all your clothes before getting into the house and take a bath.

“If you can’t undress outside, go straight to your bathroom, take everything off, soak it in warm water and soap and take a bath. No hugs or kisses before bathing.”