Cederberg doctor prioritises health of seasonal workers
Our Rural COVID-19 hero for the West Coast District is Dr Petrus van Zyl, manager medical services for the Cederberg sub-district and Citrusdal Hospital.
To date, the sub-district only had 177 total COVID-19 cases and currently has 3 active cases. As the smallest sub-district in the West Coast District in terms of population, it may be easy to simply attribute these low COVID-19 statistics to a smaller population. However, the Cederberg sub-district is much more complex and has various external factors that could have potentially have had a devastating effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Cederberg sub-district has a large number of migrant seasonal workers (some from as far as Lesotho and other provinces) and the citrus industry – a farming industry this region is well known for – reached its peak harvesting season during the height of the pandemic. This meant that farm workers from other areas, notably the neighbouring Witzenberg sub-district, usually enter the Cederberg to assist with the harvest season.
Being fully aware of the rising number of cases in the Witzenberg sub-district, Dr van Zyl worked closely with the local farmers, law enforcement and labour agents to monitor incoming farm workers. He assisted in organising and attended road blocks to all entrances to Citrusdal to ensure that workers who arrive for the citrus harvest season were screened and sent for treatment where necessary. He also ensured that all farms in the Citrusdal area were involved in the community screening and testing outreaches and monitored the migration of workers closely along with local farmer organisations and established a protocol with farmers to isolate work teams that had infected members for 14 days (the required period at the time). This resulted in limiting the spread of infections to other work teams and farms and kept the number of positive cases low and in control. Since the harvest season for citrus usually runs from April to October, farms and packing facilities are still being monitored by Dr van Zyl and his health team.
Another seasonal situation where the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus had to be managed closely, was during the snoek fishing season in the West Coast town of Lambert's Bay. Once again, Dr van Zyl was instrumental in the daily monitoring of possible cases. As a result of excellent team work and his leadership, the number of positive cases from Lamberts Bay was kept to a minimum, even during the time when snoek vendors from Cape Town streamed to Lambert’s Bay to buy fish.
The Cederberg management team under the leadership of Dr van Zyl also assisted with the successful establishment of a quarantine and isolation (Q&I) site in Citrusdal. Since private facilities that could accommodate patients for Q&I weren’t available in the area, Citrusdal Hospital staff assisted the Department of Public Works to procure services to a local venue and managed to supply meals and other logistic services to patients who made use of the Q&I facilities.
West Coast District Director, Mrs Carine Bester lauded Dr van Zyl and his team for their efforts. “Our frontline staff have obviously been instrumental during the pandemic, but we shouldn’t forget the leadership of our management teams that help steer our staff in the right direction. Aside from taking the lead, Dr van Zyl works side-by-side with his staff at the forefront and the results are clearly visible.” She thanked the staff and management team of Cederberg sub-district as well as other sub-districts in the West Coast for their hard work and dedication during the past months.
Leensie (Streicher) Lötter
Health: West Coast District & Paarl Hospital
Western Cape Government
Mobile: 072 224 7376