The University of Pretoria, department of Family Medicine is a partner for health care for the most vulnerable communities in Tshwane. Community Orientated Primary Care (COPC) as a service-learning model of the Family Medicine department that has been running in informal settlements for over 7 years offered an already established network for three informal settlements in Pretoria.

In each of these informal settlements which include Zama Zama, Melusi and Woodlane Village residents from the respective communities are employed as community health workers and work under the Family Medicine UP team led by Dr Ellenore Meyer. Weekly clinics in each community have been offered for a number of years, with CHW (community health workers) doing household visits to the up to 250 HHs (households) that were assigned to them.

With the start of the Covid_19 epidemic, the CHW teams on each site were trained by Meyer, with a protocol developed after inputs from infectious disease specialists and the experience from the Family Medicine’s extensive research and work on TB and managing infectious diseases in vulnerable communities. Prof Jannie Hugo, HOD of Fam Med’s emphasised the importance of not only screening for Covid_19, but supporting the chronic care needs of patients.

UP works in collaboration with a number of NGO’s, including Tebelo, LIFT and SA Cares, Matter and Rotary. This has been a valuable resource to mobilise funds and distribute food packages, developed by dietician Marion Beeforth, to thousands of people from food-insecure families during the lockdown period in South Africa.

The Covid_19 screening protocol that Meyer and her team are running include:

1. Non-clinical contact screening of patients in communities by a medical team

2. Isolation of symptomatic patients with food support and regular follow up from outside households by CHWs

3. Treatment of other acute conditions

4. Screening for chronic conditions such as HIV, diabetes, hypertension and TB with appropriate referral