South Africa - Durban - 28 June 2020- Nomagugu Simelane Zulu MEC for health in KwaZulu Natal at a media briefing in Mayville about Covid-19 latest develompent in the province . Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)
South Africa - Durban - 28 June 2020- Nomagugu Simelane Zulu MEC for health in KwaZulu Natal at a media briefing in Mayville about Covid-19 latest develompent in the province . Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

KZN Health MEC comes out swinging against reports that hospitals are full

By Lee Rondganger Time of article published Dec 30, 2020

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Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has come out swinging against people who are “sowing the seeds of panic and fear” on the province’s hospital bed capacity, vehemently denying that they had run out beds and mortuaries are full.

Addressing the media during a webinar on Wednesday, Simelane-Zulu said people have even digitally manipulated audio-visual material and shared it online to present a false picture that the government is failing to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MEC singled out former ANC councillor, Visvin Reddy - now the leader of the African Democratic Chane (Adec) - who has railed against the province’s response in handling the pandemic, especially at RK Khan Hosptial, via his Facebook platform.

Calling him a “failed politician”, Simelane-Zulu said the claim that there are no beds or mortuary space was “disingenuous, misleading, and completely unnecessary”.

“At a challenging time like now, we should be working collectively to contain the spread of Covid-19, to give hope, to help people get access to care, and rally the public to change behavioural patterns, so that we can prevent a disaster of unimaginable proportions. It really is not a time for social media popularity contests,” she said.

In response, Reddy challenged the MEC to go to RK Khan Hospital to see the situation for herself instead of “playing the man and not the ball”.

He said his aim was to ensure that the province was geared towards fighting the pandemic and denied that he was spreading false information on social media.

“She must go see for herself if the hospitals are fully equipped and are handling the situation and if she comes back and shows that they are dealing with it sufficiently I will have no problem in apologising. The fact that people are listening to us online shows that they have no confidence in the department and that should be a concern to her,” he said.

Simelane-Zulu said that both the public healthcare system and the private healthcare system is under pressure.

She said that over over the past 24-hour reporting cycle, KZN had registered 2 835 new infections, taking the cumulative number of infections to 188 782.

“Thankfully, this is down from the 4000s that we have been seeing, which were threatening to reach the 5000 mark. It is only by doing that which is right that we can begin to see a consistent reduction in these infection figures. Sadly, over the past 24 hours, 144 people lost their lives due to Covid-19, bringing the overall tally to 4 278. Thankfully, though, 135 370 (or 72%) patients have recovered”.

Addressing the Covid-19 bed capacity, Simelane-Zulu said that as of 28th of December, the overall beds for isolation and Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) was 3 477.

Of these beds, 2 289 were occupied, which amounts to a 66% bed occupancy rate.

The Bed Occupancy rate varies across the districts, with places like Ugu and uMgungundlovu districts, and eThekwini under pressure.

She emphasised that relatively sparsely populated districts such as Umzinyathi, Harry Gwala, Amajuba, Zululand, and uMkhanyakude have very low bed occupancy.

“These variations in the bed occupancy rates among districts mean that the province still has 34% of beds that are unoccupied; which allows for intra-district transfer of Covid - 19 patients where there is pressure, should the need arise. For instance, patients at Ugu District can easily be transferred to Harry Gwala District; and UMgungundlovu patients to uThukela District, and so on”.

She said they were are confident that bed occupancy will become a lot more stable, with the re-introduction of Level 3 regulations.

Explaining why there was a high demand for hospital beds, Simelane-Zulu said this was because late presentation, which means that by the time patients come to the hospital, they have already complicated and require high care and ICU

She added that as of the 28th of December 2020, the overall ICU capacity within public health Facilities was 39% (or 47 out of 119).

“As much as there is increased pressure and demand for ICU beds within the Metropolitan Districts (eThekwini and UMgungundlovu), the peripheral districts reflect a low Bed Occupancy in ICU. Hospitals such as Ngwelezane, Queen Nandi, Newcastle and Ladysmith had unoccupied ICU Covid -19 beds as of the 28th December 2020. Therefore, when all ICU beds are exhausted in eThekwini, uMgungundlovu and UGu, ICU patients will be moved to these hospitals...The overall Bed Occupancy rate for PUI Beds is at 73%, which is 13% higher than the COVID positive beds. Ugu district has the highest bed occupancy rate at 236%, followed by iLembe (90%) and King Cetshwayo at 81%”.

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