Tshwane ambulances struggle to find beds for Covid-19 patients
Pretoria - Although the City of Tshwane says it has not reached a crisis in terms of admitting seriously ill Covid-19 patients to hospital, increasing numbers have ratcheted up the pressure.
In the first few weeks of December, the capital city experienced an average of 266 new cases being confirmed a day, with an average of four people dying a day.
“Now in the first week of January, it has increased to 1 286 cases a day and 29 deaths on average," said Health MMC Sakkie du Plooy.
Despite his assurance that the situation is under control, a 56-year-old Pretoria man died of Covid-19 after allegedly being turned away from five hospitals.
According to reports, Nico Scheepers spent hours in an ambulance as paramedics tried desperately to secure a bed for him.
He had tested positive for Covid-19 before Christmas and remained in isolation at home. On New Year’s day his condition worsened and he needed hospital care.
Unfortunately he could not be admitted to various hospitals, among them Mediclinic Heart Hospital, Life Wilgers and Steve Biko Academic, because there were no open beds.
Scheepers was admitted to Netcare Pretoria East Hospital, but died.
Social media has been abuzz with complaints from people claiming they were unable to access urgent medical care but hospital groups have cautioned against believing fake news.
Three of the country’s biggest private hospitals, Netcare, Life Healthcare and Mediclinic, have denied turning people away from their facilities.
The Mediclinic group said in cases where patients could not be accommodated immediately in high-care or intensive care units, they were transferred to other hospitals which had space.
Dr Gerrit de Villiers, Chief Clinical Officer of Mediclinic group, said the policy was applied for short periods of time when there was a backlog.
“During this time hospitals still have to examine ambulance patients and, in life-threatening cases, stabilise patients before they are transferred,” he said.
Paramedics in the city say they have had their hands full.
Tanyaradzwa Muranda from Redi Cure Emergency Medical Services said hospitals were overwhelmed and it was getting harder by the day to find beds for Covid-19 patients.
He said the majority of calls being received at this time were Covid-19 related, with most patients having difficulty breathing.
“On average we tend to two to five Covid-19 cases a day.
“The most Covid-19 cases we’ve had in a single day in Pretoria was 11.
“The average handover from paramedics to hospital staff usually takes 15-20 minutes, but now it can take around 2-4 hours,” said Muranda.
Xander Loubser of Best Care Emergency Medical Services said that the second wave of the pandemic posed more challenges.
He said in one instance they too had to handle 11 Covid-19 cases in a single day.