A nurse in protective gear at Tygerberg Hospital's isolation ward. File photo: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
A nurse in protective gear at Tygerberg Hospital's isolation ward. File photo: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Western Cape healthcare in 'quite dire' situation fighting Covid-19 second wave

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Dec 28, 2020

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Cape Town - Public servants at the coalface of the fight against Covid-19 have made heartfelt pleas to the public to assist them in the battle against the killer disease.

The healthcare system is under severe pressure due to a sharp increase in Covid-19 admissions and an increase in non-Covid-19 trauma cases, such as alcohol-related injuries and injuries from road accidents.

In an interview with the Cape Argus on Sunday, the head of the Western Cape health department, Dr Keith Cloete said: “The healthcare system and its workers, both in the public and private sectors, have never been under so much strain as they are now.

“The situation is quite dire. Besides being exhausted and traumatised our health workers are getting infected and as such there are fewer of them working.

“We are calling on the public to do whatever they can to help, particularly over the next 14 days. They can do this by avoiding public gatherings, keeping their personal bubbles secure and adhering to the regulations on physical distancing.

“The continued abuse of alcohol is putting everybody at risk as it inevitably leads to trauma from violence and accidents.

“People will always have minor ailments, but if yours is minor, we are begging you not to come to the hospitals, especially our emergency centres, as you will just be taking up space and making the situation worse than it already is by competing with the seriously ill for service.”

Emergency medicine medical officer at New Somerset Hospital, Dr Laurica Bailey said: “Everyone keeps saying we’re the front line. We’re not. We’re pretty much the last line of defence.

“There is established community transmission again in the Western Cape, and from the experience of the first wave, we have seen that once this is the case, we also experience a higher number of our health-care workers becoming infected.

“Infections in health-care workers have far reaching implications as staff who are sick must isolate. Fewer staff can report for duty, fewer staff are available to attend to the sick and thus there are fewer staff to save lives.

“To put this into perspective, on December 22 there were 761 health-care workers across 94 institutions infected with Covid-19. Since the start of the pandemic 7 215 staff were forced to take Covid-19-related leave which equates to 36 287 days. Days when our staff could not render health services.”

Emergency centre supervisor at False Bay Hospital, Dr Ricardo Titus said: “Covid-19 is a time when people are desperate.

“I treated a young man with Covid-19 whose father came in. I placed my hand on his chest and his father placed his hands on mine. I felt the pain of all fathers who lost their sons, all fathers who could lose their sons, all sons who are lost to their fathers.”

Professor Jackie Hoare of the department of psychiatry at UCT said: “We’re taught to break bad news. But the way in which we experienced death at that time (in the first wave), and we’re experiencing now, is at a rate none of us were prepared for.

“We are tired and we do need your (public’s) help. We can’t do this alone. It’s real. It’s happening again. Please help us.”

Cape Argus

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