A two-thirds drop in the number of immunisations administered at local health facilities over the past few months has clinicians concerned about future potential health impacts, the City of Cape Town says.

The City of Cape Town has taken stock of clinic attendance during the COVID-19 lockdown, and some areas are emerging as potential future concerns,” says Mayco Member for Community Services and Health Zahid Badroodien.

While there has been a downturn of between 25% and 32% in the number of clients accessing different primary healthcare services, immunisations is a source of concern. There has been a 67% drop in the number of children seen at clinics during April and May.

A key message during the COVID-19 pandemic has been that people should stay home to limit the risk of transmission. I encourage our residents to continue doing that, but please, not at the expense of other health priorities,” Badroodien says.

“Parents and caregivers are urged to continue bringing children to the clinic for immunisations and other important health checks, as prescribed in the road to health handbook. We cannot afford to have children fall behind in their immunisation schedule, because that could leave them vulnerable to other health risks like measles.”

According to the latest data made available by the Western Cape Government, 52 out of every 100 deaths linked to COVID-19 were persons who were diabetic.

“Much has been said about the impact of comorbidities on COVID-19 and how they put persons at risk of more severe illness. We know that the Western Cape has a particularly high burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases. It is for this reason that we appeal to the public to ensure that they continue to get screened for TB, HIV, Diabetes, Hypertension and other diseases, so that they can be started on the appropriate treatment,” he adds.

“Furthermore, we remind clients who are already on chronic medication for any of these diseases to please stay the course and attend their scheduled clinic visits. We have put measures in place at our facilities to minimise the risk of contracting COVID-19, and while this pandemic is dominating our health response currently, it is also true that there are many other health priorities that require constant monitoring and intervention to prevent increasing rates of infection down the line.”

The City’s Health Department is in the process of introducing overflow facilities to ensure clients can receive medical attention in an environment that promotes social distancing and other health and safety protocols established to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Clients are also reminded to:

– make an appointment for preventative health services

– keep the appointment and arrive 15 minutes earlier

– expect to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms on arrival

– only the person(s) who are in need of the service should attend

– wear a mask

– adhere to social distancing

– stay at home if they are not well on the day of their appointment and inform the clinic that they are unable to attend

“I understand that this is a very stressful time for our communities, many of whom are adhering to the calls to stay home. However, I urge those who have legitimate health reasons to visit their local facility to please go ahead with those visits, in the interest of their health and that of their loved ones,” adds Badroodien.

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Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.