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Outbreak of Covid-19 among staff forces Netcare to close Sunninghill Hospital's theatre complex

Published May 16, 2020

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Durban - Netcare Sunninghill Hospital's main theatre complex was shut down last week after several staff members tested positive for Covid-19, the hospital group confirmed on Saturday - adding it took immediate action to contain a possible spread of the infection.

Sandile Mbele, Netcare regional director for the south west region, said the  tracking and tracing of healthcare workers, patients, staff members and doctors who were in contact with the staff members was immediately undertaken, as well as the development of a risk management process, in conjunction with an independent epidemiologist.

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“These measures include the testing of all who may have had contact with the affected staff members, 14 days of monitoring and self-isolation for nursing and support staff as well as doctors, with Netcare’s assistance where required, and re-testing once this quarantine period is completed," Mbele said. 

“The theatre complex has been deep-cleaned, disinfected and decontaminated and we have deployed ultraviolet disinfection robots which have proved highly effective in destroying viruses, bacteria and fungal spores in healthcare facilities throughout the theatre. The theatre complex has been closed for seven days as an additional precaution and will re-open this week,” he said.  

Mbele said Netcare could not disclose detailed information on Covi-19 cases in the group’s hospitals unless consent for this was given by the National Department of Health.  

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The hospital group that had to also temporarily close two hospitals in Durban - St Augustine's and Kingsway - after a similar outbreak of the virus among staff said they had been cooperating closely with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the Department of Health on an ongoing basis and have aligned our clinical protocols for managing Covid-19 patients directly with their clinical guidelines. 

“In line with our principle of taking an abundance of care to safeguard all who work and are cared for at our facilities, Netcare hospitals do daily risk assessments and screening, including temperature, of all persons at the hospitals’ premises, including staff members, doctors, contract service providers, persons coming for doctor consultations or for radiological investigations, as well as the few visitors with special exemption. Unfortunately, it has been shown that Covid-19 can be transmitted by carriers before they show symptoms that can be tested for, hence the decision to risk assess and screen staff and others working at the hospital every day. Where risk is indicated, testing is then undertaken to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading into our facility," Mbele said.

This week the hospital group said the opening  St Augustine’s and Kingsway hospitals also meant that Netcare needed to take extra precautions to prevent another outbreak at its facilities.

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The provincial health department and Netcare Group had made a collective decision to close St Augustine’s Hospital in early April after 66 people, 48 staff and 18 patients tested positive for Covid-19.

Two weeks later, Kingsway Hospital was closed to new admissions after a patient was admitted via the emergency department with a suspected stroke, but later tested positive for the virus.

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