Forgotten frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic

Forgotten frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic

He's seen one resident die due to COVID-19 complications and four others having contracted the virus, but a forgotten frontline hero has continued his relentless support of the most vulnerable during the pandemic.

The Bill Buchanan Association in Durban

Two weeks ago, the Bill Buchanan Association, a home for the aged based in Durban, reported an outbreak at the facility.

The four residents, who contracted the virus, have since recovered but remain in quarantine as a precautionary measure and will be tested again. 

READ: Elderly woman's death sparks fear in Morningside community

Having previously ventured into several career paths, Dudley Fortune took on the leadership role at Bill Buchanan Association over 20 years ago.

"Bill Buchanan has really come a long, long way from almost closing. We are still in a bit of a financial problem, but we are on our way, and we have done well so far."

The home caters for the poor, whose expenses are paid through fundraising initiatives, and it looks after some "well off people". 

Fortune says since the tragic passing of one the residents at home; staff have ramped up measures to flatten the curve. 

According to the World Health Organisations's Regional Director for Europe Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, elderly people with pre-existing conditions stand a higher chance of dying from COVID-19 related complications. 

"We know that over 95% of these deaths occurred in those older than 60 years. More than 50% of all deaths were people aged 80 years or older. We also know from reports that 8 out of 10 deaths are occurring in individuals with at least one underlying co-morbidity, in particular those with cardiovascular diseases/hypertension and diabetes, but also with a range of other chronic underlying conditions." 

Fortune says staff at the home, initially feared for their safety but they knew they had to be prepared for anything. 

"The initial news was met with some fear and trepidation by the residents and staff. But thankfully, I believe that the talks and the meetings, the notices and everything else had happened before we had the problem all helped to prepare people for what we hoped wasn't coming but which did come."

"We also spent a lot of time preparing ourselves. At the moment, we are not short of anything like masks or cleaning equipment. We had all of that prepared. And we had a quarantine area prepared, so it's almost as if there was a little hand up above helping us from somewhere and I firmly believe that."

Since the outbreak at the home, the Health and Social Development Departments has visited them to conduct testing and screenings of all its residents and staff. 

"My staff have been tremendous in ensuring the disinfection of areas, the washing down and the cleaning of hands. You come in here; your hands are going to be washed off by the time you reach the gate. You're going to walk in the building and get sprayed."

"I believe the fact that we were so prepared, and had plans so heavily for the way forward and discussing it with the people and bringing it to attention, made it happen in such a way that it was not such a shock for them. It was almost as if they were expecting this. There was a lot of fear and anguish, and you could see in people's eyes that the fear was there. But it's gone."

Another frontline worker, Kumar Covenden says, as a funeral director, there have been challenges. 

Scientists in Thailand said, this week, it's not known how long the coronavirus can survive in the body of a person who's died. 

Covenden who's the Director of Umhlanga Funerals and T G Govender & Son, says staff have been fully equipped with personal protective equipment or PPEs. 

"We have taken extra precautions at our facility when dealing with the deceased. I am constantly educating my staff of any new developments regarding COVID-19."

Covenden, who grew in the family-run business says despite fears his team remains committed. 

"There is a full staff complement at work. Our staff morale is still good, in light of the lengthy lockdown and remain committed to serve the community when called upon. We have practised social distancing and limited travel to help flatten the curve."

"What I enjoy most about my job is carrying on the tradition of my family and the satisfaction of being of able to service humanity when you are most needed and knowing that you are responsible for the last rites of someone's loved one."

Despite being an essential service, the nation-wide lockdown regulations have taken a toll on the business. Due to the number of people permitted to attend a funeral service, Covenden has had to slash prices for what they would usually charge. 

"We have been affected by the regulations since my company offers an end to end service to my clients, which includes the procurement of ancillary service providers, e.g. florist, caterers, musician etc. Due to the regulations, I am unable to offer this high-end service to my clients.

"I am aware of several initiatives like the Solidarity Fund. However, I have not sought any relief as yet. I have funded the additional PPE's at my own cost."

NOW READ: How SA's COVID-19 lockdown could get extended again

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