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#OnTheFrontline: Surviving Covid-19

Even with safety measures in place, health workers are still at risk of contracting Covid-19. As at 14 May, 239 health workers in both the private and public sector tested positive for the virus, which also claimed the lives of three. Here are the stories of three of them.
Charm McDonald, Roger Morris and Margaret Fortuin
Charm McDonald, Roger Morris and Margaret Fortuin

Charm McDonald


On 25 April, Tygerberg Hospital nurse, Charm McDonald's life, as she knew it, was turned upside down after she developed symptoms and tested positive for Covid-19. “I was in shock. It was very difficult but I realised that as frontline worker I was at risk at getting the virus.”

She was required to go into isolation at home and knew there was a risk of her infecting her household members. “I had to explain to my family and that we had to make adjustments for my isolation. We don’t have a big house and my husband had to sleep on the floor. We only have one bathroom which was particularly hard on the family as living with someone who is positive requires all areas which are shared to be disinfected after each use.”

Charm has completed her 14-day isolation period and is virus-free. She is back at the hospital doing what she enjoys most – caring for the sick and healing them back to health.

Roger Morris


Roger Morris, a porter at Groote Schuur tested positive on 30 March. He works on the trauma deck at the hospital and was in daily contact with persons under investigation for Covid-19, but also made use of public transport.

When the hospital realised he had symptoms he was tested and sent home immediately. On confirmation of his results all staff in close contact with him were also tested as per standard protocol. Roger could not safely isolate at home and feared he might infect his vulnerable household members and arrangements were made for him to isolate at a temporary isolation facility.

He returned to work after recovering and is back assisting patients on the deck. “I am so thankful to my colleagues who all welcomed me back with open arms, no one was nasty, or scared. Going forward I will be making a concerted effort and sanitise my hands, social distance myself and ensure everyone I encounter wears a mask,” he said.

Margaret Fortuin


Margaret Fortuin works at the Cape Town Reproductive Clinic and is a former colleague of the late Sr Petronella Benjamin, who was the first nurse who passed away due to Covid-19 related complications. She is currently still in isolation at home.

“After being discharged from hospital, having to be in isolation is the hardest – not having physical contact with anyone. Initially I felt alone. My faith and the encouragement of family and friends is really helping me,” saidMargaret.

While in hospital, through digital support of her colleagues, Margaret “wanted to pull through and I wanted to live”. Margaret and other infected colleagues started a dialogue network where they “encouraged each other and as frontline workers understood the risk of being exposed to the virus”.

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