Coronavirus update – 25 March 2020

Further to our previous communication, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation and announced a national lockdown, as from Thursday night 12:00 on 26 March 2020, to stem the COVID-19 pandemic. Members are urged to adhere to the lockdown and encouraged to follow the daily alerts and updates.

Below we’ve answered some frequently asked questions received from our members:

Will the Scheme still be available if I need help?

Our priority is to ensure that the Scheme continues to provide you with support.

Telephone support will continue as normal; however, please understand and be patient if responses are delayed, as many of our staff will be working from their homes. (As a result of the national lockdown, walk-in consultations will no longer be possible.)

We will continue to monitor the situation around COVID-19 and will share any pertinent information that may affect our members’ health.

As the Scheme we have committed to remaining calm but vigilant, with a focus on still being here for our members, colleagues and the communities we are in. We remain open for business and value your understanding in these trying times. It is important to understand that we all have a role to play in supporting each other during this time and more importantly in ensuring our collective responsibility in being agents of positive contribution.

If you have any questions, please get in touch via NedChat, email nedgroup.enquiries@medscheme.co.za or call 0860 100 080 (or 011 671 6833).

Will I still be able to get my chronic medicines during the lockdown period?

We acknowledge that members who are registered for chronic medicine may feel concerned about the provision of their chronic medicines.  However, as pharmacies are exempted from this lockdown, the availability of your medicine should not be affected. Courier pharmacies (e.g. Dis-Chem Medicine, Pharmacy Direct and Clicks Direct) will also continue to deliver your chronic medicine.

Having said that, concerns with supply chains of essentials such as medicines have been noted and all stakeholders are actively working to manage these risks. As a Scheme, we have ensured that there is active engagement with the pharmaceutical industry and have mechanisms in place to manage any stock concerns that may arise relating to your chronic medication.

Should we receive notification of supply problems with recommended formulary medicines, we will advise on suitable formulary alternatives that the Scheme will cover to ensure the continuity of your care. We strongly discourage the stockpiling of medicines as this tends to create problems where there otherwise would not be.

If you feel that you would be more comfortable having an additional supply of your chronic medicine, please email nedgroup@scriptpharm.co.za to request a form to arrange for a two-month supply.

If you have any questions around the supply of your chronic medicine, please email ScriptPharm at nedgroup@scriptpharm.co.za , or call 011 100 7557.

Will the Scheme cover me if I am infected?

The Scheme has put funding protocols in place to ensure that our members are covered for any tests and/or treatment that they might need.

Yes, if you or any of your beneficiaries are confirmed positive for COVID-19, you will be covered in accordance with Prescribed Minimum Benefits protocols.

I am experiencing symptoms – what should I do and NOT do?

  • Contact your doctor immediately.

We would like to encourage you to consult telephonically with your doctor and maintain the practice of social distancing and quarantineat home so you don’t spread the infection to others. The Scheme will cover telephonic consultations.

  • Do NOT go directly to your doctor.

With an increase in people visiting their GPs, there is an increased risk of exposure and that of the medical professional.

  • Do NOT go to a hospital or emergency department for screening or testing.

Going to a hospital if you suspect that you have COVID-19 places the hospital community and others at unnecessary risk. Specifically, emergency departments are specialised facilities that are equipped to provide urgent life-saving care to patients with traumatic injuries or medical emergencies.

Where are the testing facilities?

Yourdoctor willco-ordinate everything for you, including sending your test results to the NICD. When feedback is received, he/she will contact you.

If I want to be tested myself, can I do so?

No, only your doctor can request this if you meet the criteria to be considered a person under investigation. These tests are done by the NICD (National Institute for Communicable Diseases) and certain private laboratories.

How will tests be covered by the Scheme?

If you test positive for COVID-19, the cost of the test will be covered in full.

If the diagnosis is negative, the related tests will be covered from the overall annual limit and consultations with medical practitioners will be covered from the normal Scheme benefits available on your Plan. (If you test for COVID-19 more than once, subsequent negative tests will be covered from your available Everyday Services Benefits.)

Tests through self-referrals will not be paid by the Scheme.

How long will it take them to test my blood/swabs?

Currently it takes approximately 72 hours. During this period, it is advisable to stay indoors and remain isolated until the results have been confirmed. The same would apply to your immediate household.

What is the next step if my results come back positive?

Your doctor will guide you. Please remember that not all confirmed cases will require hospitalisation. You might be advised by your doctor to remain in isolation at home for a specified period of time, which may be anything from 14 to 28 days to be on the safe side. If your symptoms worsen while you are at home, please consult your doctor immediately again. Your doctor will then decide whether you need to be admitted to hospital or not.

Please remember that you or your doctor will still be required to contact the Scheme for an authorisation to be admitted to hospital.

What is the treatment for COVID-19?

There is no vaccine yet to combat this disease. There are also currently no specific medicines available to treat COVID-19. Mild disease is usually best treated with over-the-counter remedies that help with symptom management.

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and diclofenac may also be recommended for pain and fever associated with inflammation. There have been some reports on social media that raise questions about whether NSAIDs may worsen COVID-19. There is currently no scientific evidence that confirms this and no recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) or local regulatory authorities advising against the use of this group of medicines. If you opt to use these medicines or if prescribed by your doctor, it is recommended that they be used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. If you are prescribed these medications for a chronic condition, always consult your treating provider before stopping medication.

Acute medication as prescribed by your doctor will be covered in accordance with the rules of the Scheme.

If there are complications, for example bacterial infections such as pneumonia, you will be treated with antibiotics or possibly hospitalised depending on the severity of your condition. Again, please remember that most positive COVID-19 cases will NOT require hospitalisation.

Are our hospitals and healthcare providers equipped to deal with positive cases?

All hospitals have clearly defined protocols which they will follow in the event of being faced with identified or potential cases. All providers also know how to deal with the various scenarios.

Is there anything else I can do about COVID-19?

Although the national lockdown will dramatically reduce the risk of cross-contamination, we encourage you to continue being vigilant in protecting yourself and others by doing the following:

  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and
  • Practice respiratory hygiene, by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

We also highly recommend getting your flu vaccination, as it will lessen the burden on the health-care system and protect you against a respiratory disease that is dangerous in its own right.

The Scheme’s Health Screening Benefits cover one flu vaccine (excluding Vaxigrip Tetra®) per beneficiary per year from your Health Screening Benefits. Vaxigrip Tetra® is not funded, as it is significantly more expensive due to the fact that four influenza strains (three A influenza strains and one B influenza strain; versus other products’ three A influenza strains) are covered. However, asthe most recent WHO report on seasonal influenza activity, between February and September 2019, indicated that influenza A was predominant in South Africa, with very few detections of influenza B, this is deemed wasteful. The standard flu vaccine will cover you for influenza A.  You may get your vaccine from a Nedgroup Network pharmacy (for example, Clicks or Dis-Chem), where it should be available shortly.

Due to the national lock-down, our Scheme’s annual flu vaccine campaign will be limited to only certain campus sites and branches for affected staff delivering essential services. We will communicate more details about this as soon as we have more clarity around essential services and affected staff.