Mkhize: Staff shortages at Steve Biko Covid-19 triage area resolved

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Healthcare workers and patients in the temporary area outside Steve Biko Academic Hospital, created to screen and treat suspected Covid-19 cases.
Healthcare workers and patients in the temporary area outside Steve Biko Academic Hospital, created to screen and treat suspected Covid-19 cases.
PHOTO: Gallo Images/Alet Pretorius
  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that staff shortages at Steve Biko Academic Hospital's triage area have been sorted out. 
  • According to Mkhize, 33 additional nurses have been employed on an urgent basis.
  • It was previously reported that healthcare workers at the triage area were not coping with the influx of Covid-19 patients.

The staff shortage at Steve Biko Academic Hospital's triage area have been sorted out after 33 nurses were employed on an urgent basis.

This, according to Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, who visited the hospital in Tshwane on Tuesday.

Mkhize had a briefing with hospital management and also visited the triage area as well as the Tshwane District Hospital which had been housing Covid-19 patients.

Following the walkabout, Mkhize said he was quite satisfied with the work that was done at the hospital to address challenges at the state health facility.

Mkhize said:

A lot of work has been done, in particular, the issue of the shortage of staff has been resolved.

The minister said he was given a report that hospital management interviewed a number of nurses on Monday and that 33 people had been employed on an urgent basis.

Some of the nurses that were employed started working on Tuesday, while the rest were expected to start on Wednesday.

"We will be responding quickly to match the increase in the number of people who have Covid-19," Mkhize added.

News24 recently reported that the state hospital had experienced a sharp increase in Covid-19 patients in its triage area which had been set up in a parking lot at the hospital's emergency area.

IN PICTURES | Dramatic scenes at Steve Biko hospital as Covid-19 cases skyrocket

The Gauteng health department said the specialist hospital was under great pressure due to an influx of suspected Covid-19 patients from other hospitals around Gauteng, and even other provinces during the second wave.

A doctor working in the triage area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told News24 that the number of patients coming into the triage areas seeking medical care was untenable and had been exacerbated by the alleged lack of capacity, resuscitation equipment, and PPE.

The doctor painted a dreadful picture, claiming that the triage tents had been heavily congested because of the influx of patients. As a result, there was not enough bedding, which meant patients needed to endure the "cold tents" and in some instances there weren't enough beds, the doctor said.

At the time, Steve Biko Academic Hospital CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula denied that there was a lack of proper PPE and said it was most likely a matter of preference which led to doctors complaining as there were different types of masks.

She conceded that the hospital's triage tents had been under severe pressure with capacity issues in terms of space and the number of healthcare workers tending to patients.

Mathebula said:

The capacity will never be enough if the numbers are coming in high numbers, there will always be a problem of capacity.

She said the situation was not ideal, but as patients came in, gasping for air, needing medical treatment, they could not be turned away. 

Instead, the patients had been attended to and stabilised before being transferred if they were found to be Covid-19 positive.

Mkhize also touched on testing for Covid-19, saying they wanted to expedite the use of rapid antigen tests in the triage areas to ensure that patient waiting times were further shortened.

As for issues of bed capacity, the minister said an arrangement had been put into place that if hospitals beds in Gauteng were filling up, Covid-19 patients would be moved to the Nasrec field hospital.

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