As hospital admissions in Limpopo continue to feel the strain due to the rising Covid-19 coronavirus infections, so too are the ambulance services, with reports that at least 29 of them were parked outside a private healthcare facility on Thursday alone, waiting to admit seriously-ill patients.
On Thursday, DA member of Parliament, Evelyn Wilson, who also is a member of the National Emergency Services Group, said: “Today we were advised by the ambulance groups that 50% of all their calls are Covid-19-related.
“At the Netcare Pholoso Hospital in Polokwane, there is a queue of 29 ambulances waiting to get access into the hospital, some have been sitting there for two to three hours already [this morning].
“Now, when we have ambulances sitting outside hospitals waiting to get patients who are very ill inside the hospital – some of them on life support – and they can’t get them in, those ambulances are unable to go out on other calls. And it’s not just in Polokwane, we’re getting such reports across the country. This has become a huge, huge crisis.”
Wilson was speaking during a meeting of the portfolio committee on health and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, who faced a barrage of questions and critique over government’s handling of the Covid-19 vaccine acquisition.
On Wednesday, Netcare CEO Dr Richard Friedland, said Pholoso Hospital was experiencing “an unprecedented demand in hospitalisation” with the facility at full capacity.
“As part of our disaster management planning, we have commissioned a temporary clinical decision unit that can accommodate up to 80 patients. This will ease the burden on the emergency department at the hospital and will enable the stabilisation of patients prior to hospitalisation,” Friedland said.
“The fully air-conditioned clinical decision unit, which has received approval and support from the MEC for health in Limpopo, will be operational as from January 7 and will provide oxygenation, ablution facilities and safe areas for donning and doffing of personal protective equipment for nurses and doctors. An additional 60 staff members have been deployed to assist at the hospital,” he said.
He added that Netcare facilities throughout KwaZulu-Natal continued to experience an unprecedented demand for beds and this was expected to continue throughout the month.
“In Gauteng we are, as expected, already experiencing an alarming rise in admissions of Covid-19 patients across all our facilities. This is expected to rapidly worsen over the next two weeks,” he cautioned.
Friedland also announced that the group had called all its staff back from leave and was expecting hospitals to be fully staffed by the end of this week.
The pressure for hospital beds in the private sector was also laid out in an analysis by medical schemes administrator Medscheme across all provinces to compare the first Covid-19 peak in July last year to the current wave.
The data shows that while the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape seem to be at or past their peaks, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo showed a daily 8% average increase of hospital admissions in the last week of last year.