As of Sunday, more than 30 800 coronavirus cases were reported in Gauteng, placing the province in the grips of a third wave and making it the Covid-19 epicentre in South Africa.
According to Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, bed occupancy in Gauteng is at 3 859, with more than 2 100 new hospital admissions recorded in the last week.
Gauteng hospitals’ ability to manage third wave
Needless to say, hospitals in Gauteng are buckling under the third wave. Speaking on Power Talk on Monday, Gauteng provincial spokesperson Thabo Masebe said the private sector is at roughly “80% occupation, and that many facilities don’t have ICU beds”.
There is, however, “some capacity” in the public sector, and Masebe said both private and public health facilities are “working together to cope with the pressure”.
We have made a call to the national government to say please help us.
This follows after news that Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital’s unavailability will compromise the public health system and its ability to manage the third wave in the province.
Charlotte Maxeke Hospital delays
The delay in re-opening the hospital to the public was reportedly due to the installation of fire doors in line with current building regulations. Masebe said installing fire doors was of utmost urgency.
Despite the increase of new Covid-19 infections, Masebe said there’s “no need” to open the Nasrec field hospital, due to current capacity at public hospitals.
In addition, he explains that “Nasrec was not providing the same kind of care that you get from hospitals”. For now, the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital – which was supposed to be closed for seven days following a fire in February – will remain closed indefinitely.
“We can’t commit to a date. We are working very hard,” he said.
Gauteng hospitals can’t manage third wave
The chair of the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said in a statement:
“It will be practically impossible for the province to manage the third wave without the more than 1 000 beds, which is inclusive of 124 intensive care unit beds at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.”
The portfolio committee also said the effective roll-out of vaccines will eventually ensure herd immunity, and welcomed the health department’s intention to open additional vaccination sites.
‘Urgent debate’ required
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance Shadow MEC for Health in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, called for an “urgent debate on the failure to reopen” the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.
Apart from mitigating the spread of Covid-19, Bloom highlights the plight of “cancer patients who need chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and kidney patients who require dialysis”.
“It is critical that the ICU beds at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital for Covid-19 patients are available for use as soon as possible as we face a devastating third wave of the epidemic,” said Bloom.
He said the public health system in the province is in crisis as most hospitals are “crowded with hundreds of Charlotte Maxeke Hospital patients”.