Filling up of hospital beds a challenge for mining industry

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Jul 10, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - The Minerals Council SA is concerned about the countrywide shortage of hospital beds as it confirmed the industry's Covid-19 fatalities had climbed to 28.

Its head of health, Thutula Balfour, said yesterday that the filling up of hospitals was a big challenge for the mining industry, which employed 425000 people.

"It is true that hospitals are filling up, which means that even when you have an arrangement when your person needs an ICU bed you find that the bed is not there. This is becoming a challenge,” she said.

Balfour’s concerns come despite industry efforts to beef-up hospital capacity, including Royal Bafokeng Platinum, which added 200 new beds to provide initial medical care for employees and community members in a bid to alleviate pressure on stretched state resources.

The council, which represents 80percent of the mining industry, confirmed 3519 Covid-19 positive cases, including 1949 on platinum mines, 1027 on gold mines, 321 on coal mines and 222 cases in other mines. It also confirmed 15 Covid-19 pandemic-related deaths on platinum mines, eight on gold mines, three in coal mines and two in other mines.

Balfour said obesity had contributed to Covid-19 pandemic deaths in the mining industry.

“As you are aware, South Africa is quite high on the index in terms of obesity. It seems to be playing a big factor besides the other comorbidities like diabetes and HIV,” she said.

Balfour also said that the female proportion of the deaths was concerning. “It was 30percent female, which is high considering that women comprise 13percent of the mining population,” said Balfour.

The council said its plan of bringing 12500 employees back from neighbouring Mozambique and Lesotho had been hit by delays.

Nikisi Lesufi, the council’s head of environment, health and legacies, said the industry had planned for the return of 1 150 employees on Tuesday, but only 698 had returned due to border post bottlenecks.


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