’We don’t want to let our patients down’

Touch Community Services health-care worker Shameemah Claassen measuring Sybil Mervin’s blood pressure.

Shameemah Claassen often runs a gangland gauntlet to get to her patients.

She is one of the 63 community health-care workers from Parow-based Touch Community Services, an NGO that delivers medication to patients’ homes and assists with wound care, catheter care, personal hygiene and other needs that patients have.

TCS has been offering home-care to patients from Goodwood to Belhar since 2002 and it has continued doing so during the Covid-19 lockdown. The eldest patients are well in their 90s; the youngest are infants.

Ms Claassen, 29, has been with TCS for four years. She, and all the health-care workers, go out on foot and use public transport to perform their duties. Sometimes just getting to the patient can be the toughest part of the job, she says.

“We work in teams of two for safety, and also we have medication and supplies that we carry. Some guys have seen us as easy targets; they have chased us, followed us and made our jobs difficult and unpleasant.”

“A guy in a black Golf followed us, but we managed to get help from a lady that allowed us to stay in her home for while. That car did not have number plates, and it was scary to see this car following us and waiting at certain corners on our route.”

Deirdre Goliath, TCS’s project manager, says they cover an area from Parow to Goodwood and Belhar, giving medical assistance to more 300 adults and 200 children

“The health-care workers, the nurses and the staff are all dedicated to them as we know families rely on us,” she says.

The patients are referred to TCS by state hospitals, clinics and doctors. Ms Goliath and her team of professional nurses manage the logistics that include delivery of medication.

“These are persons that don’t have medical aid, so we are funded by the government to deliver this service. Besides the home-based care, we also do TB, HIV checks and Covid-19 tracking as well. So there are quite a few responsibilities, but we do it enthusiastically.”

Health-care worker Shameemah Claassen with project manager Deirdre Goliath outside the TCS office.

The community health workers often go into gangland areas where gunfire is the norm, but Ms Claassen says they do so, despite the danger, because they have a vital duty to perform.

“I’m passionate about my job, about helping the elderly and the frail especially. We are vigilant and cautious in those places as we don’t want to let our patients down.”