Covid-19 preparations are in place say Gauteng hospitals

There’s agreement to use private hospital beds for public sector patients should the need arise

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Photo of hospital
In anticipation of a rise in Covid-19 patients, hospitals around Gauteng say they have put measures in place. Photo: NabaDwA under CC BY-SA 4.0

In anticipation of a rise in Covid-19 patients, Gauteng hospitals have put measures in place.

Public hospitals are screening patients and transferring positive cases to designated hospitals. In Pretoria this is Steve Biko Academic Hospital, working together with Tshwane District Hospital, and in Johannesburg it is Charlotte Maxeke Hospital and Thembisa Hospital.

The Gauteng Provincial Command Council, a government body set up to respond to Covid-19, said: “We have cleared some of our existing hospitals and declared them Covid-19 facilities”, creating a capacity of 555 standard beds and 308 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds.

On 16 April, just over 100 people had been hospitalised, 15 needing ICU.

Another 500 beds will be added in the first stage of a new specialised facility at the Nasrec Centre, which has a planned eventual capacity of over 2,000.

The command council said it is in the process of creating new permanent wards at various hospitals, which will result in 800 more beds, but these are designated for various uses, not exclusively Covid-19 cases.

Provincial health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said that the hospitals have “sufficient stock for now” of various kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Marry-Jane Ramakuwela, acting communication officer at Mamelodi Regional Hospital, said it has implemented various measures including screening areas and test kits. Other measures in the hospital include the provision of sanitisers and PPE, and upholding social distancing in waiting areas and having security personnel control pedestrian traffic, such as by using only one entrance. The hospital has 18 ventilators and a two-bed isolation room.

Odi District Hospital, also a governmental site in Pretoria, said they have no ventilators, but a one-bed isolation room and a six-bed holding area while people waited for test results. Senior communication officer Nombulelo Shangase said that while they do have PPE, and give all coughing patients masks, their “stock is inadequate”.

The hospital has contact with an infectious disease specialist whom they can ask for advice.

Private healthcare response

In the private healthcare sector, the main hospital groups have pandemic management plans and groups working with government.

Dr Stefan Smuts, Chief Clinical Officer of Mediclinic Southern Africa, said: “This includes preparations to activate a central command centre to actively support the hospitals during the peak of the pandemic.”

The group also has internal information dashboards to monitor the levels of medical equipment, stock and the availability of beds.

Life Healthcare CEO Adam Pyle said its team of infection prevention specialists and clinical healthcare workers “have received training and guidelines on Covid-19 by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and World Health Organisation guidelines”.

Mediclinic had increased healthcare workers, including hiring more nurses, bringing in retired nurses and “reallocating clinical staff members into more active roles within the hospitals”.

Other measures in place are reduced or withdrawn visiting hours and the postponement or suspension of non-essential elective surgeries.

The majority of private hospitals say they are also making everyone who enters their facilities undergo Covid-19 screening.

While the various measures in place indicate an expected influx of patients, the hospitals’ capacity for Covid-19 patients is unclear. Pyle said this is not disclosed because of confidentiality and that “we are not in a position to disclose any patient information other than to the relevant provincial health department in respect of notifiable medical conditions”.

Life Healthcare said nationally it had 1,050 adult ICU beds, while Netcare said it has about 1,200 ICU beds. Mediclinic did not disclose its numbers.

All three groups confirm that they are in the process of sourcing additional equipment such as ventilators. Dr Anchen Laubscher, group medical director of Netcare, said it has “in response to the Covid-19 outbreak in South Africa, spent R150 million to enhance the readiness of its ICU and high care facilities, including purchasing additional ventilators”.

Life Healthcare’s Pyle said they are engaging with the government about the “collaboration of shared resources” but that currently, all patients will have to pay, whether out of pocket or medical aid.

Netcare’s Laubscher said, “We have committed to the National Department of Health to assist with treating public sector patients in Netcare facilities”. These services would be on a “not-for-profit basis, seeking only to recover costs”.

Mediclinic’s Smuts said it is also engaging the public sector to “formalise and provide available private hospital capacity when needed.”

Gauteng health spokesperson Kekana confirmed that “there is an agreement with private hospital groups for usage of their beds should the need arise.”

TOPICS:  Covid-19 Health

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