A section of the parking area at Steve Biko Academic Hospital has been transformed into a Covid-19 ward owing to the increased rate of infections in the city. Picture: Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)
A section of the parking area at Steve Biko Academic Hospital has been transformed into a Covid-19 ward owing to the increased rate of infections in the city. Picture: Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Zweli Mkhize welcomes staff boost for overwhelmed Steve Biko hospital

By Sakhile Ndlazi Time of article published Jan 20, 2021

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Pretoria - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has welcomed the news that a new batch of medical staff has been deployed to the embattled Steve Biko Academic Hospital.

This follows reports that staff were being overstretched.

Despite the rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Gauteng, Mkhize said steps were in place to ensure that medical facilities acted quickly. The deployment of the nurses is part of efforts to boost the response to the coronavirus.

Mkhize, who yesterday visited Steve Biko Hospital as part of his tour to provinces hit hard by Covid-19 cases, said the shortage of staff problems at the hospital had been resolved.

“I have been given a report that there have been numerous staff added to this hospital. A number of 33 nurses have been recruited on an urgent basis and some have started today (yesterday) while others will start tomorrow (today),” he said.

The additional nurses and doctors would go a long way towards dealing with the number of admissions and people testing at the hospital, and addressing the shortage of beds.

Mkhize said it had been arranged that some patients would be moved from Steve Biko to Nasrec field hospital to make sure patients have beds.

“There is still enough space at the Nasrec site to ease pressure off the Gauteng hospitals.”

Steve Biko’s emergency unit area has been converted into tents for patients, along with additional “fever tents”.

As of Monday night, Gauteng had the highest number of Covid-19 cases.

The hospital's chief executive, Dr Mathabo Mathebula, echoed Mkhize’s sentiments, saying the additional staff would make working conditions much easier and also allow overworked staff to rest.

She said that of the 50 vacancies advertised to fill positions at the hospital, 43 nurses had been recruited as had four more doctors and one dietician.

“We held urgent interviews over the weekend to boost our staff. Two doctors out of the four have already started on an urgent basis and all the nurses have also started.

“We are just waiting for the dietician,” said Mathebula.

An additional 38 beds had been added to the Steve Biko facility and the Tshwane District Hospital, the latter being a feeder hospital for Steve Biko.

“There have been 12 additional beds at Steve Biko and a further 26 beds at Tshwane District Hospital since Premier David Makhura visited the hospital,” she said.

Mathebula admitted, however, that admissions were still rocketing and that the beds and staff were “somewhat not meeting the exact influx of patients”.

She said the hospital was treating 65 critical patients, and the intensive care unit only had 37 beds for such patients.

Compared to the first Covid wave, the hospital had admitted more younger patients, which was worrying.

“Patients from 11 years up to 40 are the ones coming in at a fast rate. This is compared to elderly patients during the first wave.

“The bulk of the Covid-19 patients are in their forties, which is very worrying,” Mathebula said.

The next group of admissions comprised patients aged between 18 and 30.

The procedure, she said, is that when a patient arrives at the hospital with severe symptoms, he/she is tested at the four tents outside the emergency entrance.

Until the the results are received, the patient is housed in one of the the tents. The results usually take from six to 48 hours to be received. When a patient tests positive, he/she is moved to Tshwane District Hospital, opposite Steve Biko Hospital.

Steve Biko Hospital has had a sharp increase in Covid-19 patients since December. A series of images and videos have made their way on to social media, with reports of recently admitted patients being more ill and requiring critical care.

Both the private and public healthcare systems across the country are struggling to cope with the number of new cases and those with the new variant of the virus – 501.V2.

The variant has 23 new mutations and is an estimated to be 50% more transmissible than previous variants.

Pretoria News

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