Head of the Western Cape government Health Department Dr Keith Cloete urges everyone to remain cautious and adhere to regulations during this time. Photo: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Head of the Western Cape government Health Department Dr Keith Cloete urges everyone to remain cautious and adhere to regulations during this time. Photo: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Western Cape shows glimmer of Covid-19 stabilisation

By Robin-Lee Francke Time of article published Jan 5, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Western Cape Premier Alan Winde held his weekly digital conference outlining the province’s Covid-19 response and said the Garden Route district had passed its peak and cases were now on a sustained downward trajectory.

Speaking during the conference, head of the provincial Health Department Dr Keith Cloete said the Garden Route district remained under pressure, with an increase in weekly deaths.

The West Coast district, however, remained on an upward trajectory, Cloete said, with all rural districts showing signs of stabilisation, but they were keeping an eye on how the patterns held throughout the week.

The Western Sub-District of the Cape Metro had not shown increases, but Cloete said extreme caution must be taken and a close eye would be kept over the next week in the metro. The Cape metro has seen a 35% drop in Covid-19 cases, which might be an early sign that the area has reached its peak.

“This would then point to a similar trend emerging in other sub-districts soon.

“Together this points to the Western Cape nearing a peak of the second wave, and very early signs of stabilisation – although it is still early to be certain,” Cloete said.

Cloete said that while the province’s health-care facilities remained under extreme pressure, as the second wave had resulted in more hospitalisations than the first, more beds had been made available for Covid-19 patients.

“Across the Western Cape, our public sector capacity has 7,537 acute beds, excluding specialised beds at psychiatric hospitals, TB hospitals, Red Cross Hospital and the Mowbray Maternity Clinic. This also includes general and critical care beds for Covid-19 patients,” he said.

Provision has been made for 685 intermediate Covid-19 care beds.

Brackengate Hospital of Hope, which has been kept open since the first wave, has 336 beds. The Mitchells Plain Hospital of Hope, which opened on January 1, will have 200 beds. Sixty beds will be provisioned at the Freesia Ward at Lentegeur Hospital in Mitchells Plain. In Ward 99 of Lentegeur, 30 beds have been provisioned with the help of Gift of the Givers. Fifty-nine beds will be made available at the Sonstraal Hospital.

Cloete said 72 acute beds had been added to rural hospitals, of which 20 will be distributed to Vredendal, 32 to Hermanus and 20 to George.

“The Western Cape government has also made provision to make 136 intermediate care beds available, should the staffing be available, and the need arise.

“We are also experiencing significantly more deaths in the second wave than we did in the first wave,” Cloete said.

Currently, there are 3,290 Covid-19 patients in acute hospitals, 2,052 in public hospitals and 1,238 in private hospitals. Metro hospitals, excluding field hospitals, are currently running at an occupancy of 99% on average, while George area hospitals are running at 65% occupancy, Paarl hospitals at 70% occupancy and Worcester at 75% occupancy. Covid-19 and person under investigation (PUI) cases make up 33% of acute general hospital occupancy.

The specialised Covid-19 facilities are occupied as follows: Brackengate facility has 307 patients and has a total capacity of 336. Mitchells Plain Hospital of Hope has 64 patients and has the capacity for 200. Freesia Ward and Ward 99 have 54 patients with a total capacity of 90. Sonstraal Hospital has 34 patients with a total capacity of 59.

“The Western Cape Department of Health runs its entire health capacity as a single platform, allowing for patients to be moved from busy hospitals to less busy hospitals, and therefore the response should be viewed as a single system,” Cloete said.

Tents have been erected at Khayelitsha and Wesfleur Hospitals, where admission and discharges will be managed. Tents similar to these have been erected at Brackengate, Mitchells Plain, Helderberg, Eersterivier and Karl Bremer.

Emergency Medical Services and the Department of Transport and Public Works have implemented a taxi service to assist with inter-facility transfers and rapid discharges.

The Health Department’s data team has also developed a dashboard where it can track the availability of hospital bed capacity daily. This will be linked to staff availability and oxygen capacity.

Cloete said combined oxygen utilisation in the province showed public and private hospital was 76.4 tons.

“We are going into uncharted territory for oxygen use in this province,” he said.

He said given the current usage, the public and private sector including the military hospitals would exceed the available supply from Afrox.

“Contingency plans have been put in place to ensure that this supply has been increased to 95 tons per day. This includes five bulk oxygen tankers delivering oxygen this week,” Cloete said.

The province also aims to recruit 1,300 health-care workers to assist. A total of 558 applications have been received, 485 offers have been made and 80 health-care workers began work on January 4.

“The appointments include doctors, nurses, allied health workers, pharmacists, social workers and some admin-related staff,” Cloete added.


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