Covid-19: Just 4 critical care beds available in Eastern Cape's poorest regions

Eastern Cape is suffering a hospital bed shortage.
Eastern Cape is suffering a hospital bed shortage.
  • Hospitals in the Eastern Cape's poorest regions have limited resources to treat critically ill Covid-19 patients.
  • Facilities in the Sarah Baartman and Alfred Nzo districts have the lowest number of critical care beds.
  • Certain district hospitals have been "designated" for patients in need of critical care beds.

Hospitals in the Eastern Cape, one of the province's hardest hit by Covid-19, have at present 217 beds for critical care patients.

The Sarah Baartman and Alfred Nzo districts have the lowest number of critical care beds for Covid-19 admission - with each having only four available beds.

The Joe Qabi region has five critical care beds, while the Amathole district has six.

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The head of the province's project management unit, Dr Sibongile Zungu, detailed these figures during a briefing to Parliament's health committee on Wednesday.

"We are concerned about the pressure on the general beds. When we move to critical care beds, Alfred Nzo and Nelson Mandela Bay, there is some pressure we are seeing. We are designating certain district hospitals to ensure citizens can travel to a critical care bed within two hours in an ambulance," she said.

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She also said the province had made adequate provision for bulk oxygen supply at district hospitals.

Wall mounted oxygen points will be installed at Stutterheim Hospital, with a planned commissioning date of 20 January.

Zungu said there had been delays with commissioning due to copper and component shortages.

Similar works (and delays) are also ongoing at the St Barnabas Hospital.

Zungu said planned bulk oxygen installation at the Madzikane Ka Zulu and St Patrick's Hospitals commenced this month.


"The department received a final quotation from Afrox on 30 December 2020 and an instruction has been issued to Afrox to start with installation. Installation [started] on 11 January due to copper shortages," she said.

While the province is reeling from the effects of Covid-19, its neighbour, the Western Cape, has seen an 8% decline in new infections, while it has also ramped up its bed capacity.

The Western Cape's health head, Dr Keith Cloete, said hospitalisations have dropped by 26%.

"The stabilisation of cases and, more importantly, the drop in proportion positive and admissions are very positive signs that the second wave is stabilising. As always, we are hopeful but cautious, and will continue to watch the data. Deaths have continued to increase. We will watch closely over the next few days to see if this changes," he said.

READ HERE | Covid-19 surge in the Western Cape is showing early signs of stabilising, says Winde

Cloete said the City of Cape Town has seen an 8% drop in cases.

"Even with the change in testing, this can be viewed as a positive sign. Across the metro, most sub-districts show a decline in cases, except for Northern and Eastern, which show very slight increases in cases," he said.

Case numbers in the rural part of the province continue to stabilise, even with a small increase of 1% for the entire region.

"The West Coast shows an increase in cases and this is indicative of the area being at an earlier stage of the second wave than the other districts. The Central Karoo shows a 24% increase in cases, but this is based on small case numbers. The Garden Route has passed the peak of the second wave and continues on a downward trajectory," Cloete said.

He said the provincial government is now focusing on putting structures in place to ensure the efficient roll-out of a vaccine.

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