File picture: Doctor Ngcobo / African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Doctor Ngcobo / African News Agency (ANA)

KZN Health Department has R6bn shortfall to fight Covid-19

By Lyse Comins Time of article published May 29, 2020

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Durban – The KwaZulu-Natal Health Department has a shortfall of R6.3 billion which it needs to fight Covid-19.

This emerged during a presentation by the department’s acting chief financial officer, Phumelele Shezi, of the fourth quarter preliminary budget performance report 2019/20 to the KZN Legislature’s health portfolio committee yesterday.

Shezi said budgeting for the pandemic had started during the fourth quarter when R138.9 million of the budget had been reprioritised to fight the virus.

Of this, he said R130m had been apportioned for the purchase of personal protective equipment and R25m had been allocated for the procurement of ventilators.

“The budget is now sitting at just above R6.3bn, and that is a funding gap that we are looking at,” he said.

Shezi said the department was anticipating that funding would be provided by the national Department of Health and the National Disaster Fund, although it had not yet received feedback regarding this.

Head of department Dr Sandile Tshabalala provided an update on the burden of disease in the province, which is ranked fourth highest countrywide for the number of Covid-19 infections, and the department’s response to increase the number of beds for isolation and quarantine.

Tshabalala said that on May 27 there were 2 165 cases in the province, of which 1 180 (54%) patients had recovered and 50 had died. This equates to a mortality rate of 2% of infections. He said the median number of new infections reported daily was 22.

“EThekwini and iLembe districts contribute to more than 80% of total cases provincially. Though eThekwini District has the highest number of cases, iLembe District has the highest infection rate. Uthukela and Umgungundlovu districts have similar incidence risk, taking into account the population size,” Tshabalala said.

He added that although eThekwini had the highest number of cases (1290) it’s incidence risk of active cases (538) was just 13.8 cases per 100 000 people, while iLembe had 567 infections and 247 active cases, equating to 36.9 cases per 100 000 people. Out of every 100 000 people, 33.1 infections had been reported in eThekwini, compared with 84.6 per 100 000 in iLembe.

“eThekwini District contributes 84% of reported deaths. The median age of deaths is 69 years (range 43-91) with male patients dominating the fatalities,” he said.

Tshabalala said 253 people had been admitted to health facilities and 682 people had been placed in self-isolation in the province.

However, he said this was going to change as the department planned to isolate and quarantine people in health facilities rather than allowing self isolation, which had contributed to an increase in infections. He said the department had 1807 isolation beds and 143 ICU beds as well as quarantine beds across districts.

“We are increasing the number of beds in all our districts and we are partnering with the private sector, including B&Bs and other accommodation sites in terms of getting beds,” he said.

He added that more staff would be hired and the department was liaising with the national Department of Health to source additional doctors and physiotherapists to care for ICU patients.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the department was adding additional isolation beds to hospitals as well as planning to build field hospitals and use hotels and lodges as isolation sites if required.

She said additional beds would be added to hospitals including GC Crookes, Wentworth and Clairwood, while field hospitals had been planned across districts.

“Every district is going to have isolation sites, the Durban Exhibition Centre will have 450 beds, the Royal Show Grounds (in Pietermaritzburg) will have 256 beds, and we are going to put up temporary structures in Ngwelezane, iLembe and eThekwini. We will put the structures up when we need them,” she said.

She added that Ascot Park had provided a further 87 isolation beds.

The Mercury

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