Gauteng health dept says won't reopen Nasrec Field Hospital for the third wave

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  • Nasrec field hospital will not be reopened
  • Despite reports of bed shortages, the Gauteng Department of Health says it can handle the third wave
  • The department states that there are more hospital beds available than during the first and second waves

The Nasrec Field Hospital will not be reopened for the third Covid-19 wave in Gauteng, Kwara Kekana, spokesperson for the Health MEC, told Health24 on Monday.

The hospital was open last year for the first and second waves of the pandemic to help alleviate the burden of Covid-19 patients at clinics and hospitals across Johannesburg.

The facility was decommissioned in February this year "with health equipment moved out".

The third wave capacity

Gauteng currently has the highest number of positive cases in the country. As of Monday morning, the province registered 4 891 new positive cases, while almost 400 people are hospitalised in both public and private facilities due to the virus.

During the second wave, Gauteng had over 11 000 beds for Covid-19 patients in general, intensive care, high care, paediatric wards and at the Nasrec Centre. But the field hospital only provided beds for 500 patients.

"Nasrec had 1 000 beds. We only activated 500. At no point did we ever get to full usage of the 500," says Kekana.

In the past week, doctors from both private and public facilities have voiced their concern on social media about bed spaces due to rising numbers of cases in the province. 

Significant infrastructure gains 

However, Kekana says that the province has more beds now than during the previous waves.

"We have more beds than we did in the first and second waves. Our facilities are feeling the pressure, especially with PUIs [person under investigation] in the West Rand and Johannesburg District," she says.

The department has added over 900 beds since the start of the pandemic.

"With significant infrastructure gains at facilities such Bara, with a new 300 bedded facility, Jubilee with 300 beds, 150 in Bronkhorstspruit, and over 170 at Anglo Gold. These are beds that previously never existed in the system. And Tshwane District Hospital was converted to a Covid-19 treating hospital," Kekana says.

Last week, however, Gauteng member of the Legislature, Jack Bloom, revealed that the Anglo Ashanti Hospital has no budget to fully staff its 175 beds for Covid-19 cases.

Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital closed down

Bloom received the information from Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in an oral reply to his questions at a sitting of the provincial Legislature.

"There are 175 beds in the hospital, but according to Mokgethi, the staffing of only 40 ICU beds at the hospital is being prioritised," Bloom said in a statement.

Meanwhile, healthcare workers are calling for the reopening of one of Gauteng's largest facilities, the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, after it closed down because of a fire two months ago.

In a recent News24 report, the Wits University's Faculty of Health Sciences called for the reopening of the hospital.

"The loss of critical bed space at CMAJH has put undue pressure on other hospitals that are currently functioning at capacity. What we face is no longer just a health care crisis - it is a humanitarian crisis," said the Health Sciences Faculty's dean, Professor Martin Veller.  

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

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