Covid-19: Message to senior staff at Gauteng hospital paints grim picture of the third wave

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Bhekisisa takes you inside George Mukhari Academic Hospital. (James Oatway)
Bhekisisa takes you inside George Mukhari Academic Hospital. (James Oatway)
  • A message to executive committee members and department heads at the George Mukhari Academic Hospital has painted a grim picture of the third wave of Covid-19 infections.
  • According to the message, the hospital has experienced medication shortages and overworked ICU capable nurses.
  • The hospital CEO said these issues were being addressed. 

A message addressed to executive committee members, and department heads at the George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Gauteng has painted a grim picture of the third wave of Covid-19 infections with medication shortages, patients ventilated in less-than-ideal conditions and stretched staff and overworked ICU capable nurses.

The message, which News24 has seen, was sent out a week ago and forwarded by department heads at the Tshwane-based hospital as the province battles with large numbers of confirmed SARS-CoV2 infections, which cause Covid-19.

According to the message, on 18 June, the main ICU was full and could not take any more patients.

It added five other patients were being "ventilated in the surgical/Covid corridor under less-than-ideal conditions."

READ | 'We're seeing younger people dying' - Doctors forced to choose who to save as Covid-19 batters Gauteng

Patients on high-flow nasal oxygen and continuous positive airway pressure therapy have also been continuously increasing, and "these need ICU level of care and capacity that we do not have".

The message also informed the intended recipients the hospital would see an increase in the number of mortalities over the next few days due to the inadequacies in the system, which included:

  • Medication shortages.
  • Lack of fully functioning monitors in two wards.
  • Stretched staff and overworked ICU capable nurses.

A source at the hospital confirmed the message and said it was suspected it might have been sent by the hospital manager or head of ICU.

The source, who is a doctor at the hospital, said the influx of patients at the hospital because of Covid-19 was the worst it had seen since the start of the pandemic.

The hospital’s acting chief executive officer, Dr Keneilwe Letebele, confirmed parts of the message and said the increasing numbers of Covid-19 due to the third wave had posed a number of challenges on their resources.

In response to questions sent by News24 on Wednesday, Letebele added the wards in the surgical corridor have been converted to Covid-19 wards and were capable of accommodating high-care and ICU patients.

INSIDE AN ICU | 'We're filling hospital beds as quickly as Doves takes away the bodies of the dead'

The issue of monitors has also been resolved while medication shortages are being addressed.

Letebele said while the situation and conditions differed from day to day, the hospital had experienced a steady increase in the number of Covid-19 patients who needed to be admitted for further care.

"However, we are still managing to keep the situation under control despite the challenges. Our analysis is that we are likely to see a steep increase in numbers in one or two weeks' time from now," he added.

"The advent of a third-wave surge will obviously overstretch our resources. At this point in time, we have maintained a low rate of mortalities though this situation may change in the coming weeks.

"Hospitals [specifically the casualty areas] are inundated with Covid-19-related patients, therefore people are rather encouraged to visit their nearest clinic for the management of chronic diseases and minor ailments. Basic non-pharmaceutical measures have to be adhered to like social distancing, wearing of masks, sanitising."

Letebele said measures had been put in place to ensure the hospital's readiness for the third wave, which included:

  • Ensuring there is adequate stock of requisite drugs in the pharmacy warehouse.
  • Training of junior nurses to be ready for the third wave and counter the challenges posed by the shortage of ICU-trained nurses.
  • In the process of appointing additional staff.
  • Another ward being converted which can accommodate an additional 15 patients.

At present, the hospital has 280 dedicated Covid-19 beds in the Covid-19 corridor. As of 23 June, the corridor had 191 patients, with 95 of those having tested positive for Covid-19, while 78 are patients under investigation.

"The situation is quite challenging, but we have learnt some valuable lessons from the first and second wave experiences regardless of some differences.

"These lessons have helped us to adapt to the situation. Moreover, we have received extra staff and extra stock of drug consignment from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority," he added.
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