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Reorganisation of primary care services during COVID-19 in the Western Cape, South Africa: Perspectives of primary care nurses


Background: Primary care nurses play a pivotal role in the response to disasters and pandemics. The coronavirus diseases 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic required preventative, diagnostic, and curative measures for persons presenting with symptoms of COVID-19 by healthcare providers, whilst continuing other essential services. We aimed to investigate the reorganisation of primary care services during COVID-19 from the perspectives of primary care nurses in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Methods: We administered an online survey with closed and open-ended questions to professional nurses enrolled for a Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Care Nursing at Stellenbosch University (2020) and alumni (2017–2019) working in the Western Cape. Eighty-three participants completed the questionnaire.

Results: The majority of the participants (74.4%) reported that they were reorganising services using a multitude of initiatives in response to the diverse infrastructure, logistics and services of the various healthcare facilities. Despite this, 48.2% of the participants expressed concerns, which mainly related to possible non-adherence of patients with chronic conditions, the lack of promotive and preventative services, challenges with facility infrastructure, and staff time devoted to triage and screening. More than half of the participants (57.8%) indicated that other services were affected by COVID-19, whilst 44.6% indicated that these services were worse than before.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the very necessary reorganisation of services that took place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa enabled effective management of patients infected with COVID-19. However, the reorganisation of services may have longer-term consequences for primary care services in terms of lack of care for patients with other conditions, as well as preventive and promotive care.

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eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190