Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African news Agency (ANA)
Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African news Agency (ANA)

Western Cape prepares for another Covid-19 peak

By Nicola Daniels, Karen Singh Time of article published Jan 5, 2021

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Cape Town - The Western Cape is expecting its peak in second-wave Covid-19 infections in the coming weeks, with provision being made for additional beds and additional staff.

This as two major medical aids on Monday announced that the cost of Covid-19 vaccines will be covered for members, following Health Minister Zweli Mkhize's briefing at the weekend on the government's vaccine roll-out strategy.

Provincial health department head Keith Cloete was quoted in the media as saying that authorities were expecting the peak in infections to occur this week, around January 7, and possibly going into a second week, until January 13 or 14.

On Monday, however, Health Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said that experts project peaks using a variety of available data.

“We have recently had a number of public holidays and delays in reporting, so at this stage we are watching the numbers and will be in a better position once all indicators of new cases, admissions, deaths (and) test positivity rate can be reviewed collectively,” Van der Heever said.

As of 1pm on Monday, the Western Cape had recorded 41 538 active Covid19 infections, with a total of 218 836 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 169 962 recoveries.

The province also recorded 146 additional deaths, bringing the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 7 336.

In preparation for the peak, Van der Heever said a number of measures were being put in place.

“The Western Cape government and our health-care teams have worked hard to put in place a number of measures, including the provision of additional beds and the recruitment of additional staff in order to respond to the need. We have also secured 103 staff members to staff the additional beds and wards at Lentegeur Hospital.

“Among the 103 are 20 nurses, 35 nursing assistants, 17 enrolled nurses, a physiotherapist, pharmacists and assistants, ward clerks, 13 medical officers, eight porters and two medical specialists. Many of them have already undergone orientation, and orientation for certain categories of staff will continue throughout this week,” said Van der Heever.

The department had also requested the military to make medical staff available.

Premier Alan Winde said the new staff would be placed where required.

“There will be a staggered addition of staff throughout this week and there is a system in place to co-ordinate appointments per region to ensure that staff are placed where required,” said Winde.

Provincial health was also working on improving turnaround times of available beds.

“We have also put in place measures which will increase efficiency and ensure the quick turnaround of available beds. Our data team has developed a dashboard where we can track available hospital bed capacity daily, which will be linked to available staffing and oxygen capacity in order to give us a full and detailed picture of our response,” Van der Heever said.

Winde cautioned residents to keep safety top of mind as they returned to work after the holidays.

“Many people across the province returned to work today following the festive season break. As we do this, it is important that we keep safety at the top of mind.”

Meanwhile, the Bonitas Medical Fund on Monday said it would ensure that vaccines for Covid-19 were funded as a key priority for members.

“The scheme is financially stable and sound, thus we have set aside funds to ensure that we can cover Covid19 vaccines for our members – in line with specific prioritisation criteria,” said Bonitas spokesperson Lee Callakoppen.

As of January 4, Bonitas had not been contacted or engaged by any party, or the regulator of medical schemes, with regard to co-financing vaccines.

He said the fund remained open to engaging and collaborating with public and private stakeholders to secure a vaccine.

Momentum Health Solutions marketing head Damian McHugh said the costs of the vaccines would be covered by the medical schemes as part of an expanded prescribed minimum benefits offering.

However, McHugh said each medical scheme would have its own methodology in covering the costs of the vaccines, as the costs for each vaccine would vary.

“Some of the vaccines require more than one dose, so it will be important to assess the cost of each type of vaccine that will be available in South Africa,” he said.

“It is also likely to be an annual cost, similar to the flu vaccine, as the coronavirus can mutate into different strains,” he said.

McHugh added that schemes would need to manage the financial implications and might implement a reference price methodology.

“The scheme pays up to a certain price and if a member would like a more expensive vaccine, the additional cost may be a member cost,” said McHugh.

He said Momentum supported the government in its phased approach and believed that front-line health workers and high-risk citizens should have first access to the vaccine.

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