In Practice

COVID-19: Experience of a tertiary children’s hospital in Western Cape Province, South Africa

A N Parbhoo, A Numanoglu, A C Argent, M Franken, M Mukosi, M I McCulloch

Abstract


The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated rapid changes in healthcare systems and at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH), Cape Town, South Africa. Paediatric services in particular required adjustment, not only for the paediatric patients but also for their carers and the staff looking after them. Strategies were divided into streams, including the impact of COVID-19 on the hospital and the role of RCWMCH in Western Cape Province, communication strategies, adaptation of clinical services at the hospital, specifically with a paediatric-friendly approach, and staff engagement. Interventions utilised: (i) Specific COVID-19 planning was required at a children’s hospital, and lessons were learnt from other international children’s hospitals. A similar number of patients and staff were infected by the virus (244 patients and 212 staff members by 21 December 2020). (ii) Measures were put in place to assist creation of capacity at metro hospitals’ adult services by accepting children with emergency issues directly to RCWMCH, as well as accepting adolescents up to age 18 years. (iii) The communication strategy was improved to include daily engagement with heads of departments/supervisors by earlymorning structured information meetings. There were also changes in the methods of communication with staff using media such as Zoom, MS Teams and WhatsApp. Hospital-wide information and discussion sessions were held both on social platforms and in the form of smallgroup physical meetings with senior hospital administrators (with appropriate distancing). Labour union representatives were purposefully directly engaged to assess concerns. (iv) Clinical services at the hospital were adapted. These included paediatric-friendly services and physical changes to the hospital environment. (v) Staff engagement was particularly important to assist in allaying staff anxiety, developing a staff screening programme, and provision and training in use of personal protective equipment, as well as focusing on staff wellness. In conclusion, visible management and leadership has allowed for flexibility and adaptability to manage clinical services in various contexts. It is important to utilise staff in different roles during a crisis and to consider the different perspectives of people involved in the services. The key to success, that included very early adoption of the above measures, has been hospital staff taking initiative, searching for answers and identifying and implementing solutions, effective communication, and leadership support. These lessons are useful in dealing with second and further waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authors' affiliations

A N Parbhoo, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa; Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

A Numanoglu, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa; Department of Paediatric Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

A C Argent, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa; Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

M Franken, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

M Mukosi, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

M I McCulloch, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa; Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Keywords

COVID-19; Tertiary; Paediatrics; Western Cape; South Africa; Communication; Leadership; Management; Staff engagement; Clinical services

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 0;0(0):.

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-02-15
Date published: 2021-02-15

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