More patients in hospital, beds under pressure, but Gauteng's hospitals have not reached capacity - Mkhize

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • Despite the surge in hospital admissions in Gauteng, hospitals have still not reached capacity.
  • An additional 250 beds would be added to each hospital to match the daily number of admissions.
  • Close to 2 000 field hospital beds will also be added to different hospitals in the province.

The number of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals in Gauteng is "rising very fast", which coincides with the drastic increase in confirmed cases of the virus in the province, but hospitals have still not reached capacity, said Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Mkhize, along with Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku, visited the Tshwane district hospital on Friday to assess the preparations as Covid-19 cases begin to surge in the province.

"We have indicated in the past few days, as we have done in the past few months, that the surge is upon us at this point. This is the beginning of what we related to be a storm that we must raise up for," Mkhize said.

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"What we are now seeing is the numbers have started building up to a large degree, more patients are coming to hospital; as a result, the beds that we have are under pressure."

The minister added that, while the number of hospital admissions are "rising very fast", hospitals have still not reached capacity for non-intensive care unit beds.

Additional beds 

As the province continues to prepare for the increase in hospital admissions, an emergency decision was taken to increase the number of beds at all hospitals in the province.

Mkhize said an additional 250 beds would be added to each hospital to match the daily number of admissions.

Triage tents have also been set up at hospitals, where walk-ins are immediately separated. Those who may have Covid-19 will be kept at the triage tents until their status is confirmed.

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If it is confirmed that they are infected, they will be taken into the hospital for treatment.

Masuku explained that the triage tents have the capacity for intensive care treatment, including oxygen and intravenous treatment.

In addition to the 250-bed increase at each hospital, close to 2 000 field hospital beds will also be added to different hospitals in the province.

Mkhize said these decisions were borne out of monitoring the situation daily, saying that there was no once-off plan.

"When we looked at our models, Gauteng was going to be falling back on beds, based on the number of expected admissions during the surge."

The minister added that oxygen points would also be increased at field hospitals and that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been contracted to provide 20 000 ventilators.

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These ventilators will be released during July.

"Our major focus is to increase capacity to save lives."

Surge expected

Mkhize said the dramatic rise in infections was expected after the economy reopened and the movement of people increased.

The minister said, from the start of the pandemic, they they always knew Gauteng would be the most affected province because of the population size.

"What we are seeing in Gauteng is not surprising, but we need to remain concerned and vigilant by the rising numbers," Mkhize said.

The storm, as Mkhize calls it, is expected to peak through July, August and part of September.

He said the hard lockdown had served its purpose, but experts agreed that the economy had to be reopened, along with schools.

"When you saw that those activities were being opened, it's both because we are acknowledging now that we have to coexist with the virus, and we have to learn new ways on how to cope."

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