The staff of the small, rural Manguzi Hospital near Kosi Bay in KwaZulu-Natal has become skilled in caring for Covid-19 patients, thanks to dedicated professionals such as Dr Lionel de Gouveia.
It received its first case of the virus in March, when De Gouveia was already planning and implementing its pandemic response strategy. “I had to write the protocols for the nurses and clinics because the concept of a pandemic was strange to them,” he says. Manguzi suffers the usual problems afflicting rural hospitals, but it was well equipped with protective equipment, as it was already the district’s specialist isolation centre for diseases such as Ebola.
De Gouveia arrived for his community service year in 2015 and never left. “I’m very paediatric-centred, so you grow up with these children and become part of the family,” he says.
He’s a Grade 1 Medical Officer with additional diplomas in Paediatrics, HIV and Family Medicine. He was already taking a diploma in Tropical Medicine when Covid-19 struck. “Now the thing I’m studying is the thing I’m dealing with every day,” he says.
De Gouveia expanded the hospital’s four-bed isolation unit to include 24 adult beds, 20 beds for patients under investigation and eight paediatric isolation beds.
He also ensured the medical teams were trained to screen, test and manage Covid-19 patients and implemented proper record keeping for test results and contact tracing. He worked with community testing teams to test, teach and allay anxiety, and is a constant source of up-to-date information.
His responsibilities also include manning the Respiratory/Fever Clinic, overseeing suspected and positive Covid-19 patients, and liaising with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and other hospitals that refer Covid-19 patients to Manguzi.
His mother is a microbiologist managing a Covid-19 laboratory at the NCID, so medical expertise runs in the family.