Steve Biko Hospital at breaking point with wards full of Covid-19 patients

By Sakhile Ndlazi Time of article published Jan 11, 2021

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Pretoria - Pretoria’s Steve Biko Academic Hospital has reached breaking point, as all prescribed wards are full of Covid-19 patients.

An outside area has been converted into a holding ward.

A hospital spokesperson, who cannot be named as they may not speak to the media, said the situation was grim.

Many patients were extremely ill and staff are overwhelmed.

“The place is like a bad dream, a horror movie. It is scary but, more importantly it is real,” she said, adding that the staff were concerned about their own health and that of their loved ones.

Pictures on social media present a grim picture of the inundated hospital, where patients lie outside the emergency entrance gasping for air, clutching at their throats and chests, with oxygen tanks clearly visible.

Department of Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said the hospital had noted a sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 patients in the weeks since December.

The patients were also sicker with many needing critical care, she said. “Some arrive in groups and this puts serious pressure on the facility,” Kekana said.

Some of the patients had been referred from private hospitals in the city due to a lack of space, while others were self- referred from neighbouring provinces North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Kekana said another reason for the high demand was that Steve Biko resolved that it would not divert ambulances to other facilities, nor turn away any patient while it could attend to them.

Early last year the department converted Tshwane District Hospital into a Covid-19 treatment facility in partnership with Steve Biko, transforming the two hospitals into one complex.

“These efforts were done in order to increase designated beds within the complex. The complex is currently under pressure, especially with regards to the patients who require specialist immediate attention and therefore can be treated only in certain hospitals, that are also overwhelmed,” said Kekana.

The Emergency Unit entrance has an area covered with a roof, designed to handle emergency Priority 3 patients, and the hospital will erect two tents to accommodate the increase in the number of patients.

Nurse Thea van Dyk said the second wave had definitely left them stressed out and exhausted.

She said they had doubled or even tripled their duties just to keep things going.

“In addition to simply taking care of the patients, we have to take phone calls from concerned family members about their loved ones which makes us run up and down.

“We also help with the ferrying of new patients, in addition to carrying equipment around the hospital,” she said.

With state hospitals nearing capacity amid record increases in infections, private hospitals are also facing challenges.

Life Eugene Marais Hospital set up a 10-bed holding area in the undercover parking lot to cope with the increasing number of people waiting to be admitted or transferred.

Life healthcare regional manager Johan Holder said like the majority of health care facilities in Tshwane, Eugene Marais staff had adapted to the challenging circumstances in an innovative way.

At the weekend the Health Department confirmed there were 224 640 active cases countrywide, with 45 785 being in Gauteng. KZN has the highest number of active cases followed by the Western Cape.

Pretoria News

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