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The doctor gave us two options. We either get him admitted to hospital or rent out an oxygen concentrator. We were hesitant.

Sunday mornings are generally hectic for my family. Pre church service preps are crazy. From ensuring everyone is up on time, prepping the seven colours that’s anticipated after church, helping my nephew find that missing shoe and matching the right socks to getting out of the house, and rushing to ensure everything is set for the service. 

As a Pastor’s kid, the responsibility to ensure all is in order is innate in me. 

That Sunday was different. It didn’t help that it was level 3 lockdown and church services were prohibited. Church is essential (but that’s a conversation for another day). 

A few days before that, my parents, who are both teachers by profession, had gotten the jab. Mom’s side effects were mild. A backache here and there, fatigue, and headaches. Dad was fine until that Sunday morning. His ‘side effects’ were turning into the most real symptoms of COVID. That morning, he was struggling to breathe. Seventeen months of COVID mania have taught us that any struggle with breathing screams ‘Red Flag!’

Our dilemma was, do we rush him to the hospital or the doctor? All that information about how to handle these types of cases was chucked aside. This is my dad we are talking about.

We were hesitant. We opted to take him to the doctor. It was less risky. We later discovered that he caught the virus before getting vaxxed and the jab exacerbated the symptoms. 

But the hospital was not an option. Without even discussing it, scenes and stories of patients that don’t return after being admitted rattled us. 

When something like this is not happening to you or someone close, it’s easier to judge. I must admit, even with all the information and myths dispelled. I did not trust the hospital. 

Reflecting on all this, I spoke to a general health practitioner, Dr. Tshepo Malapane, about hospital and general doctor hesitancy during this time and how we can overcome it and become a safer community.

The Cause of Hesitancy

The fear of never coming home to your loved ones because you merely went to a doctor and/or hospital for a COVID-19 none related issue is a genuine concern for many people. Dr Malapane explains the causes of hesitancy. 

“At the beginning of the pandemic, it was the fear from both patients and us healthcare workers of contracting COVID19. However, the dynamics have changed, it is now evident that a combination of both fear and economic status that we all find ourselves in, plays a role regarding health facility visits.”

He explains that those who have lost income cannot afford private health care, and those who are still employed, fear losing income should they contract the virus or should they have to be isolated. 

‘’I have observed that some people, as a result, would rather not know their COVID 19 status when they fall sick, opting to self-treat,’’ he adds. 

Patients have been hesitant and fearful of admission, some reasons being:

● contracting the virus in the hospital,

● some think or have heard that once admitted, it is a sure way to death,

● hospitals have also taken decisions to postpone elective procedures to open up space and minimise infections (during peaks) 

Patterns of Doctor Visits And The Jab

Dr Malapane says there have been inconsistent patterns of appointments since the pandemic. During peaks, fewer patients are coming for medical attention. 

The Jab And Hesitancy

There has been a lot of misinformation around the vaccine – however, a lot of people have shared their personal experiences of getting ill after the jab. 

We need to acknowledge that people are different, and we react differently both physically and psychologically to medical treatment. It is therefore no different when it comes to the jab, our individual experiences (direct and indirect) also play a role. Most of us also walk around with underlying and undiagnosed medical conditions.

He highlights that the most important thing is to look at the statistics regarding the outcomes and that health workers do more to reduce fears. 

“Economic factors also play a role. We need to encourage people to seek medical attention earlier rather than later, this goes for any other illness and not just COVID19. It is also important to consider those around us, especially in our homes to minimise the spread”.

The Importance of Managing Your Health Checks

It is important to take care of medical appointments and procedures now instead of delaying them until the pandemic is over. Dr Malapane reminds us that diseases progress over time, therefore it is only wise to get a medical assessment with a management plan as some procedures can be postponed and others can’t.

Important Health Checks For Women:

Dr. Malapane reminds us of crucial health checks we should never compromise on:

  1. Pap smear – cervical cancer screening 
  2. Breast cancer screening 
  3. Blood pressure – non-invasive 
  4. Cholesterol 
  5. Blood glucose 

“These should be done at least once every three years for healthy women under 50 years and once a year for women over 50,” he emphasises.

Virtual Doctor Visits

According to www.netcare.co.za, convenient, technology-powered options for accessing healthcare became more relevant than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Malapane says it is a great way to minimise infections or the spreading of the virus and other airborne illnesses, to both patients and health care workers. However, it is limited to symptoms without having to physically examine the patient which could affect proper diagnosis and treatment.

Final Thoughts

The rules of adhering to precautionary measures now sound like a broken record. But these are crucial to protecting ourselves and those around us. The probabilities of getting infected remain high but we still need to regularly go for our annual check-ups, procedures, and treatments for better health.