While Gauteng has become the third wave hotspot, the Nasrec field hospital has been decommissioned at a cost of R3.5 million.
The third wave of Covid-19 infections is ravaging Gauteng, leading to hospitals in the province running out of bed space.
Despite this, it doesn’t look like reopening the 500-bed Nasrec Field hospital is an option as it has been decommissioned at a cost of R3.5 million.
Political parties have expressed grave concern over government’s capacity to prevent thousands of Covid-19 deaths as cases continue to rise.
According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the majority of new cases as of Monday were from the Gauteng province, accounting for 64% of the national total.
The province has become the epicentre of the third wave of infections in the pandemic. South Africa has seen 43,000 new cases in the last five days, 26,000 of which have been in Gauteng.
Gauteng’s infection rate dwarfs its closest contenders, the Western Cape at 9% and North West at 7%. As of Monday, there were 4891 new cases in Gauteng. Nationally, an increase of 632 hospital admissions and 78 in-hospital deaths have been reported between Sunday and Monday.
There were 4077 people being treated for Covid-19 in hospitals around the country, with 16 more recorded on Sunday. There were 615 patients in high-care units as of last week.
According to Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Jack Bloom, Gauteng’s fight against Covid-19 has been heavily impacted by the closure of Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg.
Increasing bed capacity is a matter of urgency. The knock-on effect of the hospital closure has led to capacity issues in other major hospitals.
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According to the Gauteng health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi, the Nasrec field hospital was decommissioned at a cost of nearly R3.5 million.
These costs included a contract for the loading and transportation of various pieces of H-VAC equipment to Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital worth R1,996,391.38. She gave this information in a legislature reply to Bloom.
Meanwhile, the private healthcare sector is ramping up its resources to fight the pandemic, with Netcare announcing it has increased its bed capacity.
According to Jacques Du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, clinical decision units (CDUs) and other additional resources have been mobilised for the third wave.
Last week, non-urgent surgeries requiring post-operative critical care were suspended, to free up capacity where it’s needed.
“Netcare hospitals will never turn a patient in need of emergency care away, and given the experience of the first and second waves, Netcare is well equipped to ensure that the group can maximise its ability to provide the necessary care,” said Du Plessis.
As facilities fill up, the hospital group encourages the public to seek healthcare from their general practitioners early on, when they start start developing symptoms such as difficulty breathing.
“At times, however, patients seeking care at our hospitals’ emergency departments, regrettably, have been required to wait if there is a sudden influx of patients. As part of our disaster management planning, we have commissioned temporary CDUs at certain hospitals in the province, to accommodate additional patients.
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“These CDUs will come online from this week to ease the burden on the emergency departments and to enable the stabilisation of patients prior to hospitalisation,” Du Plessis added.
The next of kin of patients admitted for Covid-19 care may call the Netcare Family Connect line on 0800-111-266, for Netcare to facilitate for a dedicated hospital representative to provide the next 0f kin with personal feedback on how their loved one in hospital is doing.
Bloom has asked Gauteng legislature speaker Ntombi Mekgwe to schedule an urgent debate in the house on the failure to reopen Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.
Senior doctors at the facility have also called for safe sections of the hospital to be reopened as soon as possible, but Bloom said it was unclear why this has not happened, despite promises by the provincial government.
Patients who are most affected include cancer patients who need chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and kidney patients who require dialysis.
“It is critical that the ICU beds at CMJH [Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital] for Covid-19 patients are available for use as soon as possible as we face a devastating third wave of the epidemic. The Gauteng public health system is in crisis as other hospitals are crowded with hundreds of CMJH patients.”
The debate will go ahead on Tuesday if speaker Mekgwe grants Bloom’s request.
Congress of the People (Cope) has meanwhile expressed concern about the loss of two million Covid-19 jabs after they were deemed unsafe to use by the South African Health Products Authority (Sahpra).
“This news also come at a time when it is very clear that government’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan is a total failure. The third wave is devastating, the number of Covid-19 infections are rising, and the fatalities are also increasing daily. A huge number of the front-line workers, health and medical care workers are still waiting to receive their vaccine,” said Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem.