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

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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
  • The Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria has seen a sharp increase in Covid-19 patients.
  • The hospital is under great pressure and triage tents have been set up for new patients.
  • A doctor painted a dreadful picture, claiming that the triage tents have been heavily congested because of the influx of patients.


The Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria has seen a sharp increase in Covid-19 patients, with some coming to the hospital from private hospitals and other provinces due to a lack of space.

Earlier this week, News24 reported that the Gauteng health department said the hospital, which is a specialist facility, was under great pressure.

The department released the statement following a series of pictures, shared on social media, which showed patients being treated in tents in a roofed structure at the hospital's emergency unit entrance.

The department said:

The increased number of patients are sicker and require critical care, with some arriving in groups and putting serious pressure on the facility. Some of the patients the hospital is receiving come from private facilities because of lack of space, while others are self-referred from other provinces, such as North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

READ | Covid-19: Why Steve Biko hospital is under increasing pressure

Triage tents have been set up for new patients. Walk-ins are immediately separated in the triage tents and those who are suspected of having Covid-19 are kept in the tents until their status is confirmed. If it is confirmed that they have contracted the virus, they will be transferred to the Tshwane District Hospital. While in the triage tents, patients are still given medical care.

Healthcare workers and patients in the temporary a
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 a
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 a
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 a
Healthcare workers and patients in the temporary area outside Steve Biko Academic Hospital created to screen and treat suspected Covid-19 cases.
Patient leaving the triage area at the hospital
A patient leaving the triage area at the hospital.

Number of patients untenable

A doctor working in the triage area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told News24 the number of patients coming in is untenable and has been exacerbated by the alleged lack of capacity, resuscitation equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The doctor painted a dreadful picture, claiming that the triage tents have been heavily congested because of the influx of patients. As a result, there is not enough bedding, which means that patients need to endure the "cold tents", and in some instances there aren't enough beds, the doctor said.

On some days, there have not been enough beds to cater for the influx of patients.

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 11: Health care w
Health care workers and patients in the temporary area outside Steve Biko Academic Hospital created to screen and treat suspected Covid-19 cases.
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 11: Health care w
Health care workers and patients in the temporary area outside Steve Biko Academic Hospital created to screen and treat suspected Covid-19 cases.
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 11: Health care w
Health care workers and patients in the temporary area outside Steve Biko Academic Hospital created to screen and treat suspected Covid-19 cases.

The doctor claimed that the second wave has been far worse than the first, with patients urgently needing medical attention coming in by the "bucket load". Many of these patients crash and resuscitation needs to happen in front of everyone.

"Most are not making it. The death rate is incredibly high this time around," the doctor added.

On Monday, Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi visited the hospital.

Conditions not optimal

Makhura conceded there will always be shortcomings, and that while the conditions may not be optimal, the hospital is ultimately trying to save lives. He promised that decisions have been made to attend to patients who require urgent medical care, and not to divert them even though triage areas reach capacity.

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 are different types of masks.

ALSO READ | Pressure piles on at Steve Biko hospital: Stretched doctors feel hopeless as Covid-19 cases soar

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

Mathebula said healthcare workers have also been stretched to the limit and she has since recalled some staff from leave, which will alleviate some of the pressure.

 - Compiled by Riaan Grobler. Additional reporting by Alex Mitchley.

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