How Gift of the Givers Covid-19 care centre is trying to ease the pressure on Gauteng's hospitals

Twenty doctors, the majority of them juniors, and five senior doctors will be helping at the Lenasia facility on a rotational basis without pay.

20 July 2021 - 08:00
Dr Fatimah Lambat at the Gift of the Givers Covid Care referral centre, at the Nurul Islam Hall in Lenasia, Johannesburg.
Dr Fatimah Lambat at the Gift of the Givers Covid Care referral centre, at the Nurul Islam Hall in Lenasia, Johannesburg.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

As anaesthetist Dr Fatimah Lambat took the helm as head doctor of an emergency disaster management centre created at the Nurul Islam Centre in the heart of Lenasia, she was mindful of seeing first-hand how Covid-19 has rocked the healthcare system.

The centre, which will take in seriously ill Covid-19 patients who are yet to be allocated a bed in the surrounding hospitals, admitted its first eight patients on Wednesday. It has 20 beds.

She was temporarily halting her services at the Lenmed Ahmed Kathrada Hospital to work at the centre. She said what she had seen at the hospital was motivation to get this centre running.

“It’s terrible, patients sitting outside in the ambulances. Everyone is overwhelmed, overburdened and tired. It’s been like this for the past six weeks and it’s not stopping.

“From last year March when the first Covid-19 patient came to SA, we knew our healthcare system was already burdened so we have tried to create something where we could alleviate pressure on the government and private sector,” said Lambat.

From volunteer doctors to cleaning staff and food donations, the centre was simply operating from the donations and goodwill.
Dr Fatimah Lambat

Relief organisation Gift of the Givers has been crucial in the setting up of the facility, assisting with getting medication, oxygen tanks, drip stands and other necessities to get the project running and will continue to oversee the running of the project by bringing in donations of supplies as they receive them.

And the community is bolstering efforts, donating new blankets, sheets, duvets, and storage cabinets.

“We thought of a facility like a disaster management facility. We have patients who are emergency patients who cannot get beds. Some of these patients are now being treated with medication and oxygen at home.

“We can now admit them, stabilise them until they can get a hospital bed or if they get better, we can send them home,” said Lambat.

Twenty doctors, the majority of them junior and five seniors, would be assisting at the Lenasia facility on a rotational basis for free.

Lambat said they could provide limited services only and therefore admitted patients on a referral basis from doctors in the area.

On Wednesday July 7 when the centre opened, the Gauteng health department reported that it had 8,551 people who were hospitalised with Covid-19.

She said it had been a long and difficult process to get the centre ready, with a venue being the biggest hurdle. The board of the centre, however, had been key, along with the community members and Gift of the Givers.

“From volunteer doctors to cleaning staff and food donations, the centre was simply operating from the donations and goodwill.”

The centre will have a 24-hour healthcare personnel as well as doctors on call to attend to emergency patients.

Of the first batch of patients, four required high care.

“The patients are between 50 and 60 and have comorbidities. They all struggled with getting into a facility. One of them was actually living alone and he was identified by neighbours as someone needing assistance,” said Lambat.

Describing the first day as “extremely hectic”, she, however, expressed a sigh of relief that their vision had come to fruition.

Local councillor Imraan Moosa was one of those who expressed his joy at the opening of the centre.

“It’s been difficult for people to get medical help, especially those who cannot afford it but besides money, things are just tough. One of my friends landed up at Lenmed and couldn’t get admitted. He sat for hours and I realised there’s a tremendous shortage of beds and we had to do something very fast.”

“We reached out to Gift of the Givers. What you see here has been set up in three or four days and it’s all because of the amazing community which has made a tremendous affect. Everything you see here, including the fogging, has been done by the community.”

Wheelchairs, portable oxygen and other medical equipment is pictured at the Gift of the Givers Covid Care referral centre.
Wheelchairs, portable oxygen and other medical equipment is pictured at the Gift of the Givers Covid Care referral centre.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Founder of the Gift of the Givers Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said such a facility could only be opened with community participation.

“We can assist with the start-up capital but running costs needs to come from a willing community — everyone including the medical doctors in that area need to be on board,” he said.

They were looking at assisting other communities in opening similar facilities.

Sooliman expressed optimism that the country would survive this crisis.

“It can happen if people can just take a few weeks and cancel all these events, birthday parties, weddings, bridal showers because it's here where people forget the basic precautions.

“So save yourselves, it won’t take doctors to end this virus. It takes a conscious choice from an individual,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Gauteng health department welcomed the assistance, saying that there were numerous private facilities offering care. These were permitted provided they were working within the ambit of the law.

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