Covid-19: Mkhize surveys Limpopo after reports of more dying before being hospitalised

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Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Jeffrey Abrahams
  • Mkhize acknowledged that the number of people hospitalised due to Covid-19 was increasing in Limpopo.
  • Apparent shortage of ventilators in the province was due to the delay in procurement. 
  • Authorities were striving to capture excess deaths, said Mkhize.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize visited Limpopo on Wednesday amid concerns that more people were dying at hospitals before being attended to as the province's healthcare workers grow ever more fatigued and stretched amid the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

The province has recorded an additional 238 Covid-19 deaths that could not earlier be captured by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. The figure goes back to August 2020, bringing the total cumulative deaths in the province to more than 977 so far.

Mkhize explained that Covid-19 results sometimes were received after people had died and that authorities then had to reconcile numbers at a later stage.

"Sometimes when people die under the circumstances we are not happy with, we have to do post-mortem swabs, which means the patient would be gone but not reported as a Covid-19 death. When the results come back, we have to take the results and go back to the files to record everything," Mkhize said.

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"We do audits now and then to check if we are all on course to follow everyone who has been reported. So we have to trust the results," he said.

He said authorities were also striving to capture excess deaths, including those of people who died at home "not necessarily of Covid-19 [but] so that no one accuses us of hiding the deaths".


Mkhize further explained that the apparent shortage of ventilators in the province was due to the delay in procurement and the equipment not being available due to demand worldwide.

"The order was delayed and it has to be cancelled. Nevertheless, the equipment's available at the hospitals and it's not a crisis," Mkhize explained.

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He and provincial Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba visited several hospitals in the province and a shopping mall in Thohoyandou where he witnessed a shopper being wheeled out due to "respiratory distress".

The minister acknowledged that the number of people being hospitalised due to Covid-19 was increasing in the province, and public hospitals may feel added pressure as private facilities were referring patients to them.

"What we have seen is that the number of hospitalisations is higher than before, but the numbers have not breached the number of beds allocated," he said.

On the availability of oxygen, Mkhize said: "We understand oxygen is the first line of treatment, so we use a lot more of oxygen. There have been challenges in the production of oxygen.

"We knew from the beginning that there will be challenges and that's why we establish emergency intervention measures which involves a number of departments."

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