Private hospitals will take Covid-19 patients from public sector, even at a financial loss

Netcare Kingsway Hospital in Durban.
Netcare Kingsway Hospital in Durban.
Darren Stewart/Gallo Images
  • The rate of R16 000 for high care beds is below their costs, Netcare and Life Healthcare told Parliament.
  • The public sector will refer patients to private hospitals.
  • Both private healthcare companies are concerned about the effect the spread of the virus will have on their staff.


Private healthcare groups told both houses of Parliament's health committees that the rate the state will pay to take patients from the public sector is less than the cost to them – but they will take these patients.

Representatives from Life Healthcare and Netcare made presentations to the committees on Wednesday.

Matthew Prior, Life Healthcare's funder relations and health policy executive, said that, after negotiations, the private healthcare sector agreed to take patients from the public sector at a cost of R16 000 per bed, per day.

He said this would not cover their stock used on patients in intensive care units.

"It is not a sustainable rate," he said.

He said the public sector will decide which patients go to private hospitals.

"Dealing with this Covid pandemic is so difficult," Life Healthcare CEO Adam Pyle said. "The biggest challenge we'll have is staff capacity and beds capacity."

He said infections come in waves. They'll move staff between provinces, and have already moved staff to the Eastern and Western Cape provinces.

Netcare CEO Richard Friedland also said the tariff the state will pay is lower than their costs, but they have accepted it in good faith.

'Hospitals are for sick people'

"We will take anyone based on their need at the time," he said.

He said people who are infected, but can cope on their own while self-isolating, need to stay out of hospitals.

"Hospitals are for sick people," he said.

On 9 June, Life Healthcare had 301 patients with Covid-19 in their hospitals.

On the same date, Netcare had 664 admissions to their hospitals.

Both companies said they have provided their staff with personal protective equipment (PPE) and have also made counselling available.

At Life Healthcare, 313 of its 16 376 employees in South Africa have been infected. The majority, 199, are nurses, and the most infections, 192, are from the Eastern Cape.

At Netcare, 232 of their approximately 21 000 staff members have been infected. Two staff members, one from Gauteng and the other from the Western Cape, have died.

Friedland said their biggest concern was the community spread of the virus among the staff.

He said the staff were safe in the hospital, but at risk when travelling to work and in their communities.

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