Covid-19: 'Overwhelmed' Eastern Cape asks for SANDF medical team's help

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane
  • The call for help comes amid growing outcries from health workers over under-resourced hospitals.
  • The health department is racing against time to get to 10 000 beds to weather the coming Covid-19 storm.
  • The provincial government is building field hospitals across the province to cope with the peak.

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has admitted the province's hospitals are "overwhelmed" in the fight against Covid-19, and has asked national government for the support of the South African National Defence Force medical team.

The Eastern Cape's hospitals have been struggling to cope with the influx of patients, as staff at some hospitals embark on go-slows over various grievances around their work environment.

Speaking during a coronavirus command council press briefing on Tuesday, Mabuyane said: "In light of our health system being overwhelmed, we have made a request to national government to deploy the medical team of the South African National Defence Force to assist us with the health intervention of our strategy."

There are 27 686 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 422 deaths and 14 081 recoveries in the Eastern Cape.

READ | Eastern Cape healthcare has collapsed: ‘Sick people are fighting each other’

Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, incorporating Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Motherwell, is the Eastern Cape region with the highest number of infections, with 7 827 confirmed cases and 136 deaths.

OR Tambo District, with its seat in Mthatha, has the second highest number of deaths with 92 and 4 772 infections.

The Buffalo City Metro has 80 deaths and 6 767 infections.   

Mabuyane's admission about the crisis of the province's hospitals comes amid growing outcries from nurses and doctors about being overwhelmed by high number of patients at hospitals and a lack of resources.

Health department superintendent general Dr Thobile Mbengashe said projections show the province needs 10 000 beds to deal with the Covid-19 storm when the virus peaks in the province in the next three months.

They will also need 3 000 ICU beds for the peak in July, August and September.

Mabuyane, who warned that the virus is going to get worse, said the province was building one field hospital with 500 beds for all six district municipalities and two metros. He said this was "to ensure that we are prepared for the surge of patients with Covid-19 infections".

Mabuyane said: "This will give us a combined total of 4 000 medical beds throughout the province. These are not normal beds. These are medical beds with all required medical resources and high care medical equipment to save lives. We have recruited an additional 1 000 nurses and over 5 000 community [health workers].

"It is clear to us that the virus is now at a stage where it is not only infecting us, but it is also affecting us. Thus, every citizen must contribute to efforts that are meant to fight against the spread of this virus. Our first line of defence against this virus remains washing our hands with water and soap, sanitising regularly, wearing our masks correctly all the time when we leave our homes and by keeping to the social distancing when in public spaces."

He said the provincial government has appointed additional health workers for hospitals to address challenges faced by other health workers at the Dora Nginza, Livingstone and other hospitals in the province.

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