Health Minister Zweli Mhize has announced urgent support for the Eastern Cape’s health authorities in the wake of record deaths in the past few days – more than 400 reported in Wednesday’s update.
At a press conference in Port Elizabeth on Thursday, Mkhize announced a high-powered “project management team” has been appointed to “to help the health service to cope better”.
This, after project management had been identified as a “weakness” in the province. The skilled team would assist health authorities with “quick decision-making” and “agility”, in particular.
Second, the Eastern Cape is being assisted with infrastructure and equipment. Overall, all available hospital beds are not yet filled – but the province is witnessing shortages in specific.
“Some of the smaller hospitals are taking strain,” Mkhize said on eNCA. Efforts would now be made to increase beds “in areas of need… because of the vastness of the province”.
Another crucial infrastructure shortage being urgently addressed was oxygen-supply systems. Mkhize announced government was now fast-tracking procurement. Mkhize said it was essential to plan oxygen requirements proactively, to ensure oxygen supply never ran out.
On staff shortages, Mkhize announced they were now using emergency legal channels to remove “bureaucratic delays” in appointing additional staff – including some who had already applied, where red tape was an obstacle.
“It is important they are employed as soon as possible, to take pressure off existing staff,” Mkhize explained.
The same pertained to acting CEOs of some hospitals, which required addressing, to ensure “firm and proper leadership in all institutions”.
Mkhize and his team had inspected several health facilities shown to be below safety and hygiene standards by the media, and was satisfied issues such as “rats” and necessary repair work were being addressed.
Overall, Mkhize said the recent re-banning of alcohol sales had already had a “major impact” on the availability of hospital beds and other medical resources and capacity for Covid-19 patients.
‘Cases will rise’
But Mkhize warned he expected the number of Covid-19 cases to rise in August – in all provinces in South Africa, except the Western Cape.
Mkhize cited the Medical Research Council’s report issued yesterday, which reported the latest “excess deaths” recorded. This was currently at a ratio of around 1.6 (reported yesterday as “59% more deaths”) – as compared with the usual average natural deaths total.
This was similar to countries such as India and Russia, Mkhize said.
All countries were witnessing increases in “excess deaths”.
And while these were a “mixed bag” of potentially undiagnosed deaths, with deaths from other factors – this statistic was being closely monitored, Mkhize said.
“The surge is upon us,” Mkhize said. He promised the Eastern Cape would be given maximum support.
Mkhize expressed his gratitude to the media.
“Thank you for always being there to tell the story,” he said.