FEEL GOOD | How a Durban doctor and Chatsworth residents came together to start a free Covid-19 clinic

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Dr Diveshni Govender and her staff at Havenside Commuhity Centre where her day clinic is located
Dr Diveshni Govender and her staff at Havenside Commuhity Centre where her day clinic is located
Dr. Diveshni Govender
  • A Durban doctor is running a free Covid-19 clinic together with the Havenside community in Chatsworth from Monday to Friday.
  • She resolved to open the clinic after observing the dire need for treatment in the community.
  • She says that the clinic runs solely on donations and contributions from the public.

While South Africa and the world fights Covid-19, placing a heavy strain on the public health system, the Chatsworth community in Durban has banded together to kick off a free Covid-19 day clinic.

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Run by Dr Diveshni Govender, a medical practitioner in Havenside, the clinic opened its doors in the Havenside Community Centre where two nurses, an admin clerk, and a cleaner also make up the team.

"Simply put, it is an initiative that sees the community serving the community," she told News24.

Govender said the disease has been getting the better of hundreds of families in Chatsworth.

"We all know what impact Covid-19 has made. The burden of disease has been so much. Chatsworth being a hotspot, something had to be done."

Govender opened her personal practice doors in 2017 at the Havenside Shopping Centre and has catered for a large spectrum of residents, especially the elderly.

"I have mostly been involved with the senior citizen community up to this point. Suddenly last year with Covid-19, everything took a turn for the worse."

She said that in the first wave of infections, she saw roughly 130 patients over a six-month period.

"But when December came, I saw over 200 patients in that month alone. What I saw in six months was doubled in less than four weeks."

She said that during the second wave, she had been receiving calls at all hours.

"I was inundated with calls of [sic] people saying their loved ones need oxygen or treatment. Many of the hospitals are at capacity and ambulance services never had anywhere to take people."

Dr Diveshni Govender and her staff at Havenside Co
Dr Diveshni Govender and her staff at Havenside Commuhity Centre where her day clinic is located
Details on how you can assist the Havenside clinic
Details on how you can assist the Havenside clinic
Chatsworth's Dr. Diveshni Govender
Chatsworth's Dr. Diveshni Govender
The Havenside Covid-19 day clinic spearheaded by D
The Havenside Covid-19 day clinic spearheaded by Dr. Diveshni Govender
More of the Havenside day clinic run by Dr. Divesh
More of the Havenside day clinic run by Dr. Diveshni Govender

The breaking point

Govender said losing her first patient to Covid-19 in 2020 was a difficult moment for her.

"She was my first patient that was diagnosed with Covid-19. Because she was pregnant, she was managed by the gynaecologist and got admitted three days after her diagnosis and died on 26 December. For me that was a breaking point. Something needed to be done."

She said that by Christmas and New Year 2020, patient numbers began spiralling out of control.

"I started seeing more and more patients in the parking lot of my practice. So, we basically created a critical bay in the parking lot of the shopping complex I practice at and started seeing patients."

Govender would administer patients with injections, IV's and, "... whatever else I could do", in the parking lot.

She said the parking lot was not ideal.

"It is difficult to give intravenous fluids for hours while people are sitting in the car."

She said that on 8 January she contacted the Havenside Civic chairperson.

"Subsequently we got permission from the civic chairperson, he had to get permission from authorities to use the hall.

"[They] theoretically gave us the go ahead [on] Saturday, 9 January and handed over keys... on 11 January."

Govender said they realised they would need more support to assist her in seeing patients and running the temporary venue.

"We realised this cannot be a one man show. So, we have a task team with a chairperson and a physiotherapist and other stakeholders."

Govender said they needed to clean up the hall first, which residents came together to do.

"Obviously this is a hall that hadn't been utilised for close to a year."

She said they then put a list together of what they needed in terms of donations and then made a basic plan for treatment.

"The big sponsors and donors initially came from the Muslim community at large with Nazir Malek bringing our key players."

She said a number of other faith-based organisations, including churches, donated cash, while the Satya Sai Organisation gave Covid-19 packs.

Muslim Relief Alliance starting things off

Malek is from Muslim Relief Alliance, an organisation made up of NGOs and NPOs, "... providing necessary relief to humanity, not just to the Muslim community but to all one and all".

He said they had experience in dealing with disaster management issues including floods, fires, and general poverty.

"We've previously had two clinics, one in Sherwood and one in Westville. But when Dr Govender approached me it was already something that we had experience with, hence we brought in Muslim businessmen."

He said within a few days, the clinic was set up.

"We assisted in setting up this whole clinic and today she's running a beautiful and efficient facility. I think she's got a success rate of 100%, and we are very proud of the sacrifices she and the staff that are dedicated to this clinic have made."

Govender said they started receiving equipment from oxygen concentrators to ordinary chairs.

She said they also put out a message to the community to say they were working on a Covid-19 relief system.

"We needed certain equipment. So, we made a list of non-medical and medical stuff that we needed. It started simply from something like toilet paper, a bucket and a broom to N95 masks."

She said they wanted to avoid receiving cash, but also had to consider that they did not want residents flocking to stores to buy them supplies.

"Especially because of their age. We decided to open a bank account around 12 January only because of the overwhelming request for it."

Govender said she has seen over 100 patients thus far since opening the day clinic on 14 January.

She said there is also a WhatsApp line where patients can make an appointment to be seen.

"This has however also become somewhat of a counselling line because you know people are scared. The occupational therapist associated with my practice handles that line. She is subsequently doing a bit of counselling.

"We are happy to help people who are Covid-19 positive, but sometimes they just need comfort and understanding when they need to come out to see us and when there's you know what, you just need to continue your meds for a little while, or all those cases that we [see is] outside our scope in terms of critical illness and we've been [assisting] them to go to hospital immediately."

She said people were the biggest resource in demand to help Covid-19 patients.

"I am the only doctor here, but we have also hired two nurses, an admin clerk, and a cleaner for the facility."

Govender added: "I think human resources is our biggest challenge, but in terms of the rest, thanks [to] God's will and the strength from the community and partners, we have had few challenges setting up this facility."

How do I get to this facility?

Govender said that to get an appointment, a patient must have a positive Covid-19 test result, difficulty breathing, an oxygen saturation of 85% to 92%, and have difficulty tolerating oral fluids.

You can make an appointment via their WhatsApp number 078 207 9701.

"You get an appointment and then you get a reference number, you come in for your appointment at between 07:30 and 08:00. You get an admission with vitals done and oxygen if you need it. I come through around 08:00 and do a ward round. I assess what medication is required and if you need a drip, IV steroids, or just some oxygen and comfort.

"We keep them until midday when I return and review their medical status and if they are still unwell and if they need hospitalisation," said Govender.

She said that thus far, less than 5% of patients needed hospital care after being treated by her.

"We've only had two direct transfers [where] they came in critically ill."

Govender said they received support from their first day of opening.

"We put it on our community group that we needed a clock and wastepaper baskets, I swear that in 10 minutes, people were dropping it off at our doorstep. People have donated so generously. I think it comes from the trust in what we are doing and also what we are seeing unfold in Chatsworth."

While Covid-19 numbers are slowly beginning to drop in SA, Govender said Chatsworth still experienced a high rate of infection.

"Yes, the numbers have dropped in terms of national and I definitely do believe we [have] passed the peak of our second wave, but the burden of the disease is much higher than it was in the first wave. People are sicker for longer, way past 10 days of isolation or even the 14 days. People are so critically ill on day 21."

Working around the clock

Govender said she normally worked seven days a week, but there was still an impact on her personal life.

"I have not sent my daughter back to school because I think I am high risk and it would be unfair to the other pupils. Family time has also taken a knock. My phone does not go off and there is no family time. I remember during Christmas lunch, I was trying to get a bed for a patient while everyone else was busy having lunch. There is no off time."

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