SA medical association backs Covid-19 measures, calls for telemedicine
JOHANNESBURG - The South African Medical Association (SAMA) said it supported measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night to contain the spread of Covid-19 and advocated the distribution of health services and information via electronic information and telecommunication, otherwise known as telemedicine.
Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and announced school closures and travel bans as the number of infections in the country rose to 61. In an address shown live on television, Ramaphosa said South Africa had now experienced its first cases of domestic transmission of the virus whereas, up to the weekend, all people who had tested positive had done so upon return from abroad.
In a statement, SAMA said it was aware that imposing community lockdowns, limiting public gatherings to 100 people and closing schools were drastic steps which had the potential to damage the country’s already fragile economy, adding that these measures should not be taken lightly.
“Mitigation strategies are proving key in addressing the spread of the virus in many countries throughout the world, and appropriate steps such as those announced by the president will, we believe, have a similar impact locally in mitigating the spread of infection,” SAMA chairwoman Dr Angelique Coetzee said.
"“However, we have seen that several other countries which developed heavy caseloads have implemented drastic mitigation strategies. These have depended on strong community responses, led by clear government directives. We urge the same approach in South Africa."
SAMA said in addition to the strategies already announced, it was imperative that the areas – not just the provinces – of identified cases be made known, and that priority consideration be given to telemedicine.
“Telemedicine has emerged as a crucial element of the response to coronavirus in many countries, and enables patients to contact health providers from their homes, and get appropriate medical advice based on the development symptoms, without endangering healthcare workers, and other patients,” Coetzee said.
Current telemedicine guidelines of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) however made no room for such consultations and only provided for face-to-face interaction between patient and practitioner, she noted.
“In light of the extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves, we call on the department of health as well as the HPCSA to advocate in favour of telemedicine as one of the mitigating strategies government must employ to contain the spread of coronavirus," said Coetzee.
" We believe such a move, which will be subject to all ethical rules and recommended record-keeping, is a strategically sound one, and may, ultimately, present more solutions than barriers in this fight."
- African News Agency (ANA)