Covid-19 | Gauteng hospitals ready themselves for increase in patients

(Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)
(Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

In anticipation of a rise in Covid-19 patients, Gauteng hospitals have put measures in place.

Public hospitals are screening patients and transferring positive cases to designated hospitals.

In Pretoria this is Steve Biko Academic Hospital, working together with Tshwane District Hospital, and in Johannesburg it is Charlotte Maxeke Hospital and Tembisa Hospital.

The Gauteng Provincial Command Council, a government body set up to respond to the Covid-19 crisis, said "we have cleared some of our existing hospitals and declared them Covid-19 facilities", creating a capacity of 555 standard beds and 308 intensive care unit (ICU) beds.

On 16 April, just over 100 people had been hospitalised, 15 needing ICU.

Another 500 beds will be added in the first stage of a new specialised facility at the Nasrec Centre, which has a planned eventual capacity of over 2 000.

READ | Inside Gauteng's makeshift hospital for Covid-19 patients 

Sufficient stock - for now

The command council said it was in the process of creating new permanent wards at various hospitals, which would result in 800 more beds, but these would be designated for various uses, not exclusively Covid-19 cases.

Provincial health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said that the hospitals had "sufficient stock for now" of various kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Marry-Jane Ramakuwela, acting communication officer at Mamelodi Regional Hospital, said the hospital had implemented various measures, including screening areas and test kits. Other measures include the provision of sanitisers and PPE, and upholding of social distancing in waiting areas, and having security personnel control foot traffic. The hospital has 18 ventilators and a two-bed isolation room.

Odi District Hospital, also a governmental site in Pretoria, said they had no ventilators, but a one-bed isolation room and a six-bed holding area while people waited for test results. Senior communication officer Nombulelo Shangase said tha,t while they did have PPE, and gave all coughing patients masks, their "stock is inadequate".

The hospital has contact with an infectious disease specialist who they can ask for advice.

Private healthcare response

In the private healthcare sector, the main hospital groups have pandemic management plans and groups working with government.

Dr Stefan Smuts, chief clinical officer of Mediclinic Southern Africa, said: "This includes preparations to activate a central command centre to actively support the hospitals during the peak of the pandemic."

The group also has internal information dashboards to monitor the levels of medical equipment, stock and the availability of beds.

Life Healthcare CEO Adam Pyle said their team of infection prevention specialists and clinical healthcare workers "have received training and guidelines on Covid-19 by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and World Health Organisation guidelines".

Mediclinic had increased healthcare workers, including hiring more nurses, bringing in retired nurses and "reallocating clinical staff members into more active roles within the hospitals".

Other measures in place are reduced or withdrawn visiting hours and the postponement or suspension of non-essential elective surgeries.

The majority of private hospitals say they are also making everyone who enters their facilities undergo Covid-19 screening.

Additional equipment

Life Healthcare said it had 1 050 adult ICU beds nationally, while Netcare said it had about 1 200 ICU beds. Mediclinic did not disclose its numbers.

All three groups confirm that they are in the process of sourcing additional equipment, such as ventilators. Dr Anchen Laubscher, group medical director of Netcare, said the group had spent R150 million to enhance the readiness of its ICU and high care facilities, including purchasing additional ventilators".

Life Healthcare’s Pyle said they are engaging with the government about the "collaboration of shared resources", but that currently, all patients would have to pay, whether out of pocket or through medical aid.

Netcare’s Laubscher said: "We have committed to the National Department of Health to assist with treating public sector patients in Netcare facilities." These services would be on a "not-for-profit basis, seeking only to recover costs".

Mediclinic’s Smuts said they were also engaging the public sector to "formalise and provide available private hospital capacity when needed".

Kekana confirmed that "there is an agreement with private hospital groups for usage of their beds should the need arise".

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