"A public health crisis like this is the reason Aurum exists. Our mission is to save lives. This is the moment for us to step up and fulfil our mission. Let us stand up and be public health champions in the face of this global pandemic.” This was part of Group CEO Prof Gavin Churchyard’s video conference address to all Aurum staff, in the wake of the worsening global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Heeding Churchyard’s call, members of the executive management team visited clinics to meet and show solidarity with staff working in the frontlines of health service provision in Ekurhuleni.
Group Chief Operating Officer (COO) Dr Dave Clark visited the Daveyton Main Community Health Centre and spoke to staff members about Aurum’s response to COVID-19 both as a healthcare provider and an employer. “The aim is to act decisively in the best interests of staff and the communities we serve,” he said.
The site visits were also interactive sessions that provided clarity on clinical guidelines and practical directives on how staff were to continue with their work while taking precautions to protect themselves from possible transmission.Staff member Thuli Molalakgotla, said she was concerned about how uninformed the public was. “People see me wearing epaulettes and know I am a nurse, so they ask me about a vaccine, they don’t know that there isn’t a vaccine for Corona. People are scared, we are scared because we don’t know what we are dealing with or what to expect.” In response to the alarming misconceptions and myths, Clark said; “It is critical that you have the right information. We want to reduce exposure to fake news, sensationalism and misinformation which just helps charge the sense of panic.”
At the Ramokonopi and Phola Park Community Health Centres, Regional COO for Health Programmes Dr Dino Rech, called on staff to use basic preventive measures such as hand washing and social distancing. “These are the most basic of measures and they are what will count in preventing the spread of the virus.” Rech reminded staff of the importance of Aurum’s work saying the continuation of HIV and TB screening, testing and treatment was vital to prevent increased vulnerability to Coronavirus.
Dr Nokwethemba Mtshali, Managing Director for Health Systems Division, called on staff to use their existing knowledge, particularly on TB screening, to deal with suspected Coronavirus cases. This was in response to questions from staff members at the Tembisa and Winnie Mandela Health Centres which she visited with Human Resource Director Michael McMillan. With some of the protective gear and hand sanitiser already distributed, Mtshali clarified their use. “We can use gloves when we are coming into contact with patients and we use and discard them immediately after. Wearing gloves all day can do more harm than good.” She also explained the difference between the surgical mask which some of the staff members were wearing. “These protect everyone around you from the droplets from your cough.” The N95 mask however sealed around the face and protects both the wearer and people around them. In a show of solidarity and to encourage staff as they performed their country duty as essential staff in a growing national disaster, Mtshali said as a medical doctor herself, Mtshali said she understood her responsibility. “I am a clinician before I am a managing director, so if I will have to leave the laptop and pick up my stethoscope, I will roll up my sleeves and get on with the mission of saving lives,” she said.
Management staff will continue to visit healthcare facilities as Aurum staff continues to fulfil its mission as a partner in public health service provision.