WATCH | ‘I hope the vaccine comes now’: Paramedic fears SA isn’t prepared for third Covid-19 wave

10 February 2021 - 07:00

Paramedic Clive Moeleso says the only fear he experiences when responding to a suspected Covid-19 case is that he may contract coronavirus and pass it on to his chronically ill mother. 

The Saaberie Chishty Society paramedic is seated in the ambulance service boardroom at the society’s Lenasia headquarters. 

Moeleso and his partner Michael Makhethe have just returned from a suspected Covid-19  call. The paramedic says a day hasn’t gone by when he or one of his colleagues has not responded to a person under investigation (PUI). 

“I’ve lost track, it’s too many. Daily we would receive two or three calls,” Moeleso says when asked to estimate how many suspected Covid-19 calls he’s responded to. 

When responding to a suspected Covid-19, the paramedics don full personal protective equipment (PPE) before rushing off to screen PUIs. 

Saaberie Chishty paramedic Michael Makhethe arrives at a Lenasia block of flats after receiving a call about a patient displaying Covid-19 symptoms.
Saaberie Chishty paramedic Michael Makhethe arrives at a Lenasia block of flats after receiving a call about a patient displaying Covid-19 symptoms.
Image: Emile Bosch

Paramedics' patients often experience anxiety attacks when the paramedics clad in PPE enter their homes. This was the case when Moeleso and Makhethe respond to a call from Shahid Manjra’s Lenasia residence. 

Through Manjra’s coughing fit, the paramedics can be heard softly encouraging him to relax his breathing. 

Moeleso said the paramedics have seen an increase in the number of young people contracting the coronavirus. 

“During the second wave of infections we saw [more] people in their 30s, but still not as often as older people,” he says. 

Paramedic Michael Makhethe responds to a suspected Covid-19 case in Lenasia, south of Joburg.
Paramedic Michael Makhethe responds to a suspected Covid-19 case in Lenasia, south of Joburg.
Image: Emile Bosch

After screening the patient, the paramedics await instruction from their control room, about which hospital is able to admit the patient. 

In Manjra’s case, he is taken to a Lenasia hospital, diagnosed with bronchitis and discharged three days later. 

The Saaberie Chishty Burial Society was started in 1982 by the late Abbas Sayed. The ambulance service was started in 1988.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the ambulance service extended its services to include home-based oxygen treatment. 

Moeleso says alcohol consumption brings the biggest problem for paramedics as people tend to “forget the coronavirus exists while drinking”. 

“The biggest factor is alcohol. If they could stop the alcohol. It’s like Covid-19 doesn’t exist when alcohol is on sale,” he says. 

Moeleso says he can’t wait for the the widespread rollout of vaccinations and a hopeful end to the pandemic. 

When asked for his message to South Africans who do no believe in the severity of the virus, the paramedic says: “Hopefully they don’t get it. People must follow what the government advises. If they could help us by doing those things, it would be so much easier for us.”

Paramedic Clive Moeleso escorts a suspected Covid-19 patient from his home to an ambulance in Lenasia.
Paramedic Clive Moeleso escorts a suspected Covid-19 patient from his home to an ambulance in Lenasia.
Image: Emile Bosch

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