Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has noted the immense pressure the lifting of the alcohol ban has had on the healthcare system and has reported his concerns to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).
While at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital on Friday, Mkhize noted the increase in the number of alcohol-related trauma cases and its impact on the health system, and said there were fewer beds and more pressure on the health system as a result.
The alcohol ban was lifted on 1 June when the country went into Level 3 of the lockdown.
The issue is now before the NCCC, which is expected to mull over the impact of alcohol on the healthcare system. Complaints from hospitals are that there was added pressure to the system due to alcohol-related cases and emergencies such as assaults and drunk driving incidents.
This added another layer of challenges to the already stretched intensive care units which have seen more influx in cases since the shift into level 3 of the lockdown.
Mkhize said he hoped the matter would provide a positive outcome going further.
His visit to the hospital comes as even mortuaries have noted the increase in cases, a concern for their storage capacity.
The minister’s comments come after the Gauteng provincial government said this week that it was asking national government for stricter measures to be considered, including limited hours for the sale of alcohol and the prohibition of unnecessary social gatherings.
The provincial government’s head of communications Thabo Masebe said it has not asked, and will not ask, for the level 4 or 5 lockdown to be brought back.
Cabinet and the NCCC are expected to hold meetings on Monday to discuss the government’s response to the pandemic.
600 admissions at Tshwane District Hospital
The Tshwane District Hospital, which was decanted and is now a Covid-19 patient only hospital, has admitted over 600 patients since April.
Mkhize visited the hospital in Pretoria along with Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku on Friday to assess the preparations as Covid-19 cases begin to surge in the province.
Masuku said the hospital had been emptied to deal strictly with Covid-19 patients.
Mathabo Mathebula, CEO of Steve Biko Academic Hospital, which is linked to Tshwane District Hospital, said in April that they started with 11 Covid-19 patients and have since admitted more than 600 patients to the hospital.
She added that most of the patients had made full recoveries – and, to date, 33 patients had died at the hospital.
Mathebula added that all the patients at the district hospital were Covid-19 positive, but not everyone was there strictly for Covid-19 treatment.
Patients needing operations or patients who are pregnant, but had also tested positive for the virus, have been admitted.