Brief Report

Staff testing for COVID-19 via an online pre-registration form

Muhammad S. Moolla, Arifa Parker, Mohammed A. Parker, Sthembiso Sithole, Leila Amien, Rubeena Chiecktey, Tasneem Bawa, Abdurasiet Mowlana
Southern African Journal of Infectious Diseases | Vol 36, No 1 | a232 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajid.v36i1.232 | © 2021 Muhammad S. Moolla, Arifa Parker, Mohammed A. Parker, Sthembiso Sithole, Leila Amien, Rubeena Chiecktey, Tasneem Bawa, Abdurasiet Mowlana | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 July 2020 | Published: 22 January 2021

About the author(s)

Muhammad S. Moolla, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Services, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
Arifa Parker, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Services, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
Mohammed A. Parker, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Services, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
Sthembiso Sithole, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Services, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
Leila Amien, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Services, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
Rubeena Chiecktey, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Services, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
Tasneem Bawa, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Services, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
Abdurasiet Mowlana, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Services, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Healthcare workers are at increased risk of contracting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and potentially causing institutional outbreaks. Staff testing is critical in identifying and isolating infected individuals, whilst also reducing unnecessary workforce depletion. Tygerberg Hospital implemented an online pre-registration system to expedite staff and cluster testing. We aimed to identify specific presentations associated with a positive or negative result for SARS-CoV-2.

Methods: A retrospective descriptive study design involving all clients making use of the hospital’s pre-registration system during May 2020.

Results: Of 799 clients, most were young and females with few comorbidities. Nurses formed the largest staff contingent in the study, followed by administrative staff, doctors and general assistants. Doctors tested earlier compared with other staff (median: 1.5 vs. 4 days). The most frequent presenting symptoms included headache, sore throat, cough and myalgia. Amongst those testing positive (n = 105), fever, altered smell, altered taste sensation, and chills were the most common symptoms. Three or more symptoms were more predictive of a positive test, but 12/145 asymptomatic clients also tested positive.

Conclusion: Staff coronavirus testing using an online pre-registration form is a viable and acceptable strategy. Whilst some presentations are less likely to be associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, no symptom can completely exclude it. Staff testing should form part of a bundle of strategies to protect staff, including wearing masks, regular handwashing, buddy screening, physical distancing, availability of personal protective equipment and special dispensation for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related leave.


Keywords

COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; healthcare workers; occupational health; staff coronavirus testing; outpatient coronavirus testing; workforce retention in pandemic; digital healthcare services.

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