Tygerberg's Covid-19 ICU beds situation should not be seen in isolation, says health dept

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The Western Cape government says Tygerberg Hospital's ICU Covid-19 department reaching its capacity should not be seen in isolation from the rest of the province's ability to accommodate Covid-19 patients.

"The department notes the recent media report stating that Tygerberg Hospital's [intensive care unit] is full," it said in a statement after News24 reported the 25 beds set aside for Covid-19 patients were fully occupied as of Tuesday.

READ: 25 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients 'already full' in Cape Town's largest hospital

"We would like to advise that the hospital should not be seen in isolation from the provincial plan in managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This is an integrated plan, leveraging all available resources, in the province. The total number of beds in the whole system needs to be considered."

The department said while Tygerberg, as of Thursday, had 23 patients in its ICU, in the broader province, it had 2 162 general care beds and 150 ICU beds in central and regional hospitals.

As of Thursday, 143 patients were admitted to ICU in both public and private hospitals, including the 23 at Tygerberg Hospital, it added.

The province is working hard with the private sector to provide additional beds for severe Covid-19 cases.  

The province's head of health, Dr Keith Cloete, stated in a presentation on Wednesday that for severe cases there were: 

- 150 critical care beds within the public sector and an additional 100 critical care beds are to be created within it.  

- The public sector will buy 300 beds from the private sector.

- The private sector has its own 300 beds already.

- The Cape Town International Convention Centre will be turned into a temporary hospital facility with 850 general care additional beds at the peak of the pandemic for mild cases. 

- A temporary hospital in Brakengate on the R300 will provide 330 beds; Thusong Centre in Khayelitsha will have 68 beds; the Cape Winelands' Sonstraal Hospital will have 150 beds and Tygerberg Hospital will get an extra 30.

On Wednesday, Cloete said there were a large number of undetected cases which would continue to grow because of the limitations on testing.

The Western Cape's numbers of cases increased rapidly because community transmission "seeded" before the rest of South Africa.

Most cases were currently in the Cape Metro, but outlying areas were not far behind in terms of also spiking in the number of cases, he warned.

About 90% of people who contract Covid-19 will not require hospitalisation, while those requiring it will be considered for facilities as mentioned above.

'One integrated response'

In a statement on Thursday, Premier Alan Winde also said the province's capacity should be looked at as one integrated single response system, taking into account all available beds.

Aside from the amount of general care beds mentioned by Cloete, plans were also in place for more ICU beds.

"We are also looking to make 550 critical care (ICU and High Care) beds available at the peak, including 150 beds that already exist in public health facilities, 100 additional beds to be added in the public sector (but additional resources are needed for these), and the purchase of 300 beds from the private sector for patients from the public sector," said Winde.

"This means that we have a potential total of 850 ICU beds available in the Western Cape."

'Will still fall short of ICU beds at peak'

He confirmed however that even in the best case scenario, the province will still fall short of ICU beds at its peak.

"I must also make clear - while we have sufficient capacity at this time to meet our current critical care needs, as we have indicated before, even in the best-case scenario, we will still fall short of ICU beds. 

"This is why it is so vitally important that we focus on protecting the most vulnerable," he said, adding that about 90% of people will not require hospitalisation.

The province therefore will be streamlining its testing and contact tracing to focus on high risk groups such as health workers and vulnerable people.

They would also be re-purposing community screening and testing programme to focus on high risk groups - those at risk of becoming seriously ill, the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

He said citizens could help by changing behaviour.

"We need the help of every single person. We simply can't do this alone. You need to keep yourself safe. When you do this, you interrupt the chain of transmission and slow the virus."

*This story has been updated to include comment from Premier Alan Winde.

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