The Eastern Cape department of health can deal with a third wave of the Covid-19 coronavirus – if and when it arrives. This is according to the recently appointed MEC of health, Nomakhosazana Meth, who said they had built enough capacity over the past year of the pandemic and had learnt valuable lessons which would be key in managing the virus.
She was delivering her policy speech on Thursday at the Eastern Cape provincial legislature under the theme, The year to strengthen collaborations and partnerships in the era of Covid-19 to protect, promote and improve health in honour of Mama Charlotte Maxeke.
Meth said she was proud of the investment that the department, with the support of other government departments, the private sector and NGOs, had made to ready health facilities to manage the impact of the pandemic.
“With the threat of the third wave of the coronavirus, we will continue to monitor our Covid-19 response in the 2021/22 financial year through the incident management team and to implement strategies to mitigate Covid-19 through strengthening public health and nonpharmaceutical interventions, risk communication, and improved case management,” Meth said.
At the end of February 2021, the department provided 2 029 Covid-19 beds. These were made available from infrastructure upgrades of 73 facility projects undertaken by the provincial department of health through the department of public works and infrastructure, for R401 million.
Meth said the department was able to provide bulk oxygen tanks to nine facilities, of which seven were already functional, and five additional facilities were planned to be fitted with bulk oxygen tanks in the first quarter of 2021/22. Installation of oxygen points has also been rolled out to hospitals, focusing on the 28 facilities that were identified.
“As a result of the above health capacity strengthening, the department, including the private health sector, was able to admit 31 436 patients infected by the coronavirus. We were able to equip our hospitals with modern health technology.
“Many patients received much-needed intensive and critical care. We were able to procure 95 ventilators, 121 high-care beds and 137 intensive care unit beds. Our actions throughout these trying times were motivated by the philosophy of Batho Pele or Abantu Kuqala (People First),” said Meth.
The province recorded its first case of the coronavirus on March 21 2020, in the Xhora magisterial area of Amathole District Municipality. Almost a year later, the disease has infected more than 194 886 people in the province.
Meth said 183 308 of the cases have recovered, translating to a 94.1% recovery rate. The coronavirus pandemic had a devastating effect on the province’s healthcare workforce. As at March 21 2021, a total of 302 healthcare workers had lost their lives in the line of duty.
“I want to pay tribute to these fallen heroes and heroines, and salute them for their resilience and commitment in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Their efforts and patriotism will always be inscribed in the annals of history,” she said.
The MEC said the province was on course to vaccinate healthcare workers to ensure they were protected from the virus as front line workers.
“As of March 19, we have had 16 808 of our healthcare workers vaccinated, with no reported adverse reactions. We therefore would like to assure our people that the vaccine is safe to be administered.
“It should be noted that the vaccine is administered under strict research conditions which guarantee the security of it,” she said.