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Doctors' Covid-19 helpline hangs up

23 August 2020 - 00:00 By nivashni nair
The Doctors On Call programme came to an end this week.
The Doctors On Call programme came to an end this week.
Image: 123rf.com/gekaskr

After receiving more than 40,000 calls and reaching more than 10-million South Africans in five months, SA's Covid-19 Doctors on Call has hung up the phone.

The programme, in which 450 doctors responded to calls about the potentially deadly coronavirus, came to an end this week.

One of its founders, Dr Anuschka Coovadia, said it was time for the doctors to return to their usual duties.

"The need for health-care services has evolved towards testing, occupational health care and clinical services. As such, our volunteers need to get back into their usual mode of practice and focus on supporting the reintegration of our communities back into the mainstream."

The Doctors on Call service focused on providing medical information and advice on Covid-19 to the public through a call centre helpline, and supported the rollout of a free testing programme.

The service operated from Monday to Friday, with up to 10 doctors responding to calls in each hourly slot.

"Within 48 hours of sending out a call to the medical fraternity, we had 450 doctors who volunteered. The core group, which remained with the programme throughout the five months, was made up of about 120 doctors. This group was a truly diverse team of colleagues from across the country - primary health-care physicians and specialists, outpatient doctors and hospital-based doctors, academics, both young and elderly doctors," Coovadia said.

The helpline received more than 42,000 calls.

Co-founder professor Morgan Chetty of the KwaZulu-Natal Doctors Healthcare Coalition said the helpline aimed to help the most disadvantaged communities.

"Early in the Covid-19 pandemic in SA we identified an urgent need for the provision of high-quality, credible information and advice relating to the coronavirus pandemic telephonically for the poor and vulnerable within our communities," he said.

Durban doctor Mags Moodley said it was a humbling experience to have been a part of a group of "dedicated souls". "The virus is going to be with humans for some time to come. What new mutations or disease manifestation we may see in the months to come…so maybe our work here is not yet done."


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