Netcare hospital closes doors amid high infection of patients and staff

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Netcare St Augustine's Hospital. Picture: Supplied
Netcare St Augustine's Hospital. Picture: Supplied

The portfolio committee on health has weighed in on the wildfire spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), in light of the high number of infections that the hospital has recorded.

“It is unbelievable that we could have so many Covid-19-related infections and deaths at one hospital. Half of the deaths relating to the pandemic in KZN are from St Augustine’s Hospital,” committee chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo said in a statement on Thursday.

Netcare group chief executive Richard Friedland said the hospital had 15 patients who had “pre-existing community-acquired” Covid-19 as well as 47 staff and doctors who subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Friedland also said the hospital had recorded four Covid-19-related deaths, however, according to KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, who briefed media on the hospital’s closure last night, there were actually five deaths associated with Covid-19 at the hospital.

“As a healthcare group that holds the sanctity of life above all else, every death is one too many. At this time, we wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of those who passed away.

“In addition, we want to assure the people of South Africa that we are sparing no effort or cost to keep every person in our care, as well as our staff and doctors, as safe as possible,” Friedland said.

According to the latest figures, the country currently has 1 845 confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 354 are in KZN. At least 18 deaths have been recorded, nine of them also in KZN.

What we are witnessing at St Augustine’s is something we would not have discovered if there was no country-wide vigilance to fight Covid-19.
health committee chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo

Last night Simelane-Zulu announced that the hospital would be closed indefinitely, bar one ward that would be used as a quarantine facility for the staff who had contracted the disease.

Dhlomo commended the MEC’s decision to close off the hospital, saying it would “drastically curtail” the spread of the disease.

Friedland had outlined a range of measures the hospital was taking to stop the spread of the disease at the hospital, which included the closure of the emergency department on April 2 and cancellation of all planned surgery admissions.

On April 2, the hospital also started a deep-cleaning process to decontaminate and disinfect it, which was scheduled to be completed by Thursday.

A Netcare clinical team of epidemiology and infectious diseases specialists from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, working together with Salim Karim, a professor and special advisor to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, was tasked to investigate the cause of the outbreak at the hospital.

Dhlomo stated: “We would like the minister to leave no stone unturned in getting [answers regarding the outbreak at] St Augustine’s Hospital. We would like to thank President Cyril Ramaphosa for announcing and declaring a national state of disaster, thereby enabling a lockdown for the entire country. What we are witnessing at St Augustine’s is something we would not have discovered if there was no country-wide vigilance to fight Covid-19.” 


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