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Private hospitals under pressure as third wave hits Western Cape

Private hospitals are experiencing an increase in demand for healthcare as the Western Cape climbs to Covid-19 peak. Picture: David Ricthie/ANA Pics

Private hospitals are experiencing an increase in demand for healthcare as the Western Cape climbs to Covid-19 peak. Picture: David Ricthie/ANA Pics

Published Jul 11, 2021


Cape Town - The Western Cape could see more than 500 hospital admissions for Covid-19 patients by next week as private sector hospitals come under pressure.

As the Covid-19 third wave sweeps through the country and the province’s wave only expected to peek at the end of the month, officials are putting measures in place to ensure that hospitals are able to keep up with demand for healthcare.

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The province’s hospitals are seeing an admission of 170 people per day, with 2 355 people in hospital as of Friday. The majority of these patients are in private hospitals, where admissions have increase by 20% from more than a week ago.

By last Monday, the Brackengate Hospital of Hope had 133 Covid-19 patients, Mitchells Plain Hospital had 47 while Sonstraal Hospital had 39.

Provincial head of health Dr Keith Cloete’s said rural district hospitals were also under pressure.

George Hospital and most district hospitals in the Garden Route are reported to be very busy, along with private hospitals in Mossel Bay, Oudtshoorn and George.

In the Overberg, Gansbaai has seen a sudden increase with 70 new cases and the private hospital is filled to capacity.

“Private hospitals are taking strain and there is an increase in cases literally across the entire province. Clusters are the big drivers of the transmissions,” Cloete said.

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Spokesperson for the provincial Health Department Mark van der Heever said in the case of private hospitals filled to capacity, attempts were made to alleviate the pressure within that hospital’s network.

“If a particular Mediclinic is full, they will first see which closest other Mediclinic hospital can accommodate patients. Should they then be unable to admit a patient, they will liaise with a public hospital nearest to them to enquire about admitting the patient,” he added.

Chief clinical officer of Mediclinic Southern Africa, Dr Gerrit de Villiers confirmed that the group had experienced a strong demand for hospital beds during the current third wave, particularly in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Western Cape.

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“We have seen a 12% increase in the number of Covid-19 admitted patients in the past seven days in the Western Cape... as a result of the increase in patient numbers and severity of patients’ conditions, and is expected to continue in the coming weeks,” he said.

“Hospital bed capacity remains fluid and this dynamic situation is continuously monitored and addressed. Where possible, measures are also in place to further increase our capacity through reallocation of non-Covid-19 units as well as ensuring that oxygen capacity and supply is sufficient to support the needs for supplemental oxygen in our wards.

“Hospital bed capacity at Mediclinic Hermanus remains under pressure. This situation is continuously monitored and addressed. When necessary patients may be transferred to another suitable facility, but this would depend on availability in the region and the level of care required.

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“We are able to move equipment such as ventilators to areas under pressure and key resources such as oxygen availability are constantly being monitored.”

Chief executive for Netcare, Dr Richard Friendland said plans have been put in place to deal with the surge in Covid-19 cases.

“We have already started scaling down on non-urgent surgery and medical admissions in our coastal hospitals, and some have suspended such surgery to rapidly create capacity for the expected increased Covid-19 patient numbers. Only medically necessary, time sensitive surgeries (MeNTS) will continue,” said Friedland.

“Plans are also in place to convert certain Medicross day theatres and other facilities to accommodate Covid-19 patients, if needed. Our clinical resources are being further strengthened by recruiting additional resident medical officers and clinical associates to provide continuous cover in Covid-19 zones.

“Several specialists have also responded to our call to join the Covid-19 teams.”

Dr Fareed Abdullah, of the SA Medical Research Council, said other provinces should take lessons from the challenges that plagued Gauteng.

“Gauteng had a smaller first and second wave. While we expected a bigger third wave, what we saw was beyond our expectations,” he said.

“The Western Cape’s cases continue to grow and are already above the figures seen in the second wave.

“Provinces must ensure they have enough nurses on hand, have rolling contingency plan that as cases go up more wards are open to accommodate increased patient numbers. Ensure that the quality of oxygen reticulation systems are okay and that the ambulance system is functioning properly to be able to transport patients to hospitals with available hospital beds.”