Netcare hires independent specialists to investigate Covid-19 outbreak at St Augustine's hospital
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Netcare regional director Craig Murphy said the hospital group was working closely with the Department of Health and other health authorities in the investigation initiated by Premier Sihle Zikalala after he ordered the indefinite closure of the hospital earlier this month.
This was after four patients who tested positive for Covid-19 died at the hospital, and a fifth patient succumbed to the virus after being transferred to another local hospital. A total of 66 people, including 48 staff at the hospital, tested positive for the virus.
“Netcare has employed the services of two independent infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists to assist in investigating the outbreak at St Augustine’s Hospital. This independent investigation is under way,” Murphy said.
“With regard to the government’s investigation into the hospital, we are providing regular, detailed feedback on the status at the hospital to the Department of Health (DOH) on both a district and provincial level.”
Murphy declined to provide information regarding how many patients remained at the hospital and how many had tested positive for Covid-19.
“Netcare understands and respects the public’s concerns, but we are not allowed to disclose information on Covid-19 cases unless we have consent from the National Department of Health (DoH) to do so,” Murphy said.
“We are in ongoing communication with the DoH and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD),” he said. “The hospital has undergone a systematic programme of deep cleaning and decontamination, including the use of UV robots which have proved highly effective in destroying viruses, germs and fungal spores in health-care facilities.
“Once an area is cleaned, it’s locked down and marked as ‘green’ on the hospital plans. The entire hospital has been subjected to this process and this will continue until all Covid-19 patients are discharged. We are working closely with the DoH and we’ll be guided by them as to the reopening of the hospital.”
Murphy said doctors’ rooms for outpatient consultations had been closed on April 3, but provision had been made for doctors to undertake post-operative consultations on surgical cases in a separate building.
“In all other cases doctors have been asked to use telemedicine or consult via telephone with patients. We remain in regular communication with the doctors who practise at the hospital. All non-essential staff members, including support services, are being rostered so as to minimise the staff complement on site,” he said.
Zikalala’s spokesperson, Lennox Mabaso, said the DoH was working closely with hospital management.
“We’re still busy with the testing and screening of everyone who was in the hospital at the time,” he said.
“We want to make sure in getting it operational that we’ve addressed all the areas of concern and the challenges.”
On the issue of the hospital not providing sufficient personal protective equipment such as masks to staff, which the Democratic Nurses Organisation of South Africa had complained about, Murphy said Netcare’s policy exceeded international norms.