Two medical groups and a communications network have joined forces to establish a help line-based initiative, “COVID-19 Doctors on Call”, to recruit family practitioners to assist community healthcare workers on a voluntary basis with the diagnostic and management of particularly members of the country’s poorer communities in meeting coronavirus needs during the pandemic.

In a formal announcement of the not-for-profit programme by the KZN Doctors Healthcare Coalition (KZNDHC) supported by Usizo Advisory Solutions and Vula, a direct reference is made to the strict guidelines the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has implemented for primary healthcare workers to manage the frontline of exposure: “These guidelines include a defined diagnostic protocol, a clinical management algorithm and reporting framework.  The NICD,” the communique continues, “has also recommended that concerned members of public contact their doctors first, rather than present at their surgeries, clinics or emergency rooms, in order to prevent further spread of the virus and infect frontline healthcare workers, which will further disable the healthcare system. Many people, particularly the uninsured, unemployed and vulnerable groups, don’t have direct access to call a doctor, hence they are at greater risk.”

Open to all doctors from across the country, Doctors on Call is a programme which offers a Covid-19 helpline, operating between 08h00 and 17h00, Monday to Friday, providing access to the more than 450 doctors already engaged.

“Administered by a local call centre, all calls,” it is explained, “are received by a trained call centre agent, screened and then rooted to a doctor-on-call, for advice related to Covid-19. Callers only pay for the price of the normal call and not the discussion with the doctor.” 

The doctor network is being trained according to the national guidelines, standard operating processes and provide advice according to the NICD guidelines.

“All calls are documented and reported on using the Vula app. The helpline provides information only and refers callers to the appropriate channels if further intervention or testing is required.”

The help-line number is 0087 0550 234.

*Further details are available from either one of the following:

Anuschka Coovadia [mailto:Anuschka.Coovadia@usizoas.co.za;  Elijah Nkosi elijahnkosi11@gmail.com ;  Prof MN Chetty mnchetty@iafrica.comkamlesh@kznmcc.co.za ; ‘Neven Govender’ neven@drngov.co.za