Seminar unpacks city’s response to Covid-19

Deputy health director Dr Patrick Nodwele addresses those attending a seminar where the Bay's Covid-19 response was in the spotlight
UNDER SCRUTINY: Deputy health director Dr Patrick Nodwele addresses those attending a seminar where the Bay's Covid-19 response was in the spotlight

Public health resources must be enhanced to ensure that Nelson Mandela Bay is better placed to fight pandemics such as Covid-19.

That was the word from the municipality’s deputy director of health, Dr Patrick Nodwele, who was speaking at a seminar organised to scrutinise the metro’s response to the coronavirus.

The seminar was held in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Bay branch of the SA Institute for Environmental Health.

Nodwele said the world was evidently becoming smaller and diseases would frequent the country.

As such, municipalities needed to be ready in terms of human resources and equipment, medical or otherwise.

“I understand that we did not plan or budget for this pandemic at the beginning of the financial year, but I think going forward we need to anticipate that we may have further outbreaks and when it comes to resources we need to be ready,” Nodwele said.

He said despite the challenge of limited resources, the public health department had the strength of committed and highly skilled health practitioners who had braved the Covid-19 storm head-on.

“Our strength as the city has been dedicated health officials who love their job and the community they serve.

“We did contact tracing, and had huge outreach and educational programmes which played a big role.

“As there is still no cure for Covid-19, residents needed to use preventive measures to minimise the infection risk. We had to manage the surgical masks’ waste to ensure that it does not become a source of infection.

“And unfortunately hundreds of our residents died, and we had to deal with Covid-19 burials and enforce the law where possible,” he said

He lauded the contact tracing officials whom he said had risked their lives going into the homes of those suspected to have the virus.

Nodwele said the seminar was  hosted in September as the world was commemorating World Environmental Health Day (WEHD). 

The 2020 theme was environmental health, a key public health intervention in disease management.

He noted that drought and water cuts had compounded the challenge of curbing infections, and said the municipality had put measures in place for communities who found themselves with no water.

Nodwele said Covid-19 had exposed a lot of gaps in health systems across the world.

“Cities we believed were [in] developed countries were exposed by Covid-19. That is why it is important that we go back to the drawing board and scrutinise our responses.

“As this generation, we need to leave behind written evidence of what we experienced during Covid-19 and how we overcame the deadly virus so that future generations can draw some lessons from our experiences,” he said.

The SA Local Government Association’s Sikhetho Mavundza agreed that the city could do  better when it came to beefing up its  health-care workforce, as well as financing and information systems.

“Our last assessment on the capacity of the municipality showed there are only 37 environmental health practitioners to service an almost 1.26-million population.

“If this is indeed the case, it means the metro has a backlog of about 89 environmental health practitioners to ensure that appropriate municipal services are effectively provided in the Bay,” Mavundza said.


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