Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Western Cape Health Department’s priority has been to protect its staff from infection in order to have a health workforce to save the lives of the vulnerable.
With community transmission well established at the time and public transport being opened up, the Department knew it had to do something to reduce the risk of infection of its staff using public transport. In partnership with the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works (WCTPW) an innovative action, the Red Dot Taxi service, was initiated to provide safe evening transport for public sector healthcare workers home from their places of work.
“During this difficult time it remains really important that we take care of our health staff who need to take care of the most vulnerable and sick people in our health system,” says Dr Keith Cloete, Head of Health in Western Cape.
Stringent health and safety procedures are followed, including cleaning and sanitisation of the vehicle after every trip, hand sanitiser on board for passengers and the driver, compulsory wearing of masks by all on board.
Since its launch in May 2020, this service has provided approximately 47 000 trips for healthcare workers, driving over 730 000 km and servicing 25 health facilities across the province.
Anthea Foster, who works in the Central Sterile Service Department at Tygerberg Hospital says she feel safe using this service. “I feel totally safe and there is no risk as the driver follows all the required safety measures. My family are also now more relaxed knowing that I am taken care of,” she added.
Oswald Moses, also works at Tygerberg Hospital and shares Anthea’s sentiments. “Before you enter the taxi, the driver is always at the door, ready with the sanitiser. The compliance with social distancing within the taxi is fantastic”.
Zena van Schalkwyk, a nurse working in Groote Schuur Hospital’s ICU, commutes with the service regularly as her shifts finishes late in the evening. “The service is so much safer than having to take a bus late in the evening and by having only a few passengers per trip really allays one’s fears of contracting coronavirus on public transport,” she added
“We thank the WCTPW for heeding our call to assist our health workers to stay safe and save lives,” says Dr Cloete.
Jacqui Gooch, Head of Department of the Department of Transport and Public Works stated: “We are proud of this project. Not only are we assisting in getting critically important staff safely to and from the frontline, but also assisting people to get to Quarantine and Isolation facilities. The success of the Red Dot and Red Dot Lite service is testimony to what can be achieved when government and the private sector take hands. We thank SANTACO leadership for joining us on this journey in combatting the virus”.
The Red Dot Taxi service also provides transport to people who require temporary accommodation at quarantine and isolation facilities. To date, more than 8 600 transport trips have been provided to people to and from these facilities which reduces the risk of any further possible infections.
The local case management team contacts each person who tested positive or who needs to quarantine and offer them accommodation at one of the temporary facilities. Should the person take up the offer, arrangements will be made with the Red Dot Taxi service to collect them at their homes and take them to the temporary facility. Once the isolation or quarantine period is concluded the same service will transport them home again.
Malcolm Williams lives in the Drakenstein area and utilised the Red Dot Taxi service to be transported to an isolation facility. “I was very happy that this service is available to us as it reduced the risk of me to transmitting the virus to someone else who may have needed to take me to the facility,” he said.