South Africa

CORONAVIRUS

Is Gauteng ready for the Covid-19 peak?

Is Gauteng ready for the Covid-19 peak?
A panoramic general view of the Nasrec quarantine site while under construction on April 25, 2020 in Johannesburg South Africa. (Photo: Dino Lloyd)

MEC for Health Bandile Masuku told the Gauteng Legislature that resources are still needed, including beds and healthcare workers, before the Covid-19 peak that is predicted to hit in August and September. However, the MEC remains hopeful that any capacity issues can be resolved.

“We are going to have a gap… but we are continuously trying to create capacity,” Gauteng MEC for Health Bandile Masuku said on Tuesday after it was announced that Gauteng potentially faces a shortage of 6,878 critical care beds and 1,788 ICU nurses. 

This is concerning as Covid-19 cases in the province are expected to peak at the end of August and early September 2020.

Masuku said that according to predictions and the Gauteng Health Department’s modelling, 8,000 critical care beds, which include high care and ICU beds, will be needed at the peak period. 

For general beds, matters are not any better with 25,000 needed at the peak and only 6,803 general beds available, this leaves a shortfall of 18,197 beds.

“We are hoping that with all the work we have been doing, that we have started, this gap might not be that much when we get to the point,” Masuku said. 

The Gauteng Provincial Legislature hosted a virtual house sitting where respective Budget speeches are presented for the 2020/21 Financial Year has been tabled, discussed and debated since Thursday 18 June.

On Friday, 19 June, Masuku had announced that his department had been allocated R57.7-billion for the 2020/21 financial year. Making the announcement, he indicated that R19-million would be allocated to primary healthcare.

“Improving primary health care is the foundation upon which the establishment of universal health coverage in South Africa will be built,” Masuku is quoted in The Sowetan. “It is for this reason that we continue to improve on its allocation from R17.2-million last year to R19-million this year.” 

Masuku outlined on Tuesday that for June 2020, there are enough critical care beds but for July 2020, there is a gap of 1,487 with 2,609 beds still needed and only 1,122 are currently available.

“I have to say that there is a lot of work that needs to be completed by the end of June in many facilities that will give us an excess of 700 beds which will half the need we have for July,” Masuku said. 

During the peak, 3042 nurses are required during the peak however Masuku stated that there are currently only 784 nurses and only currently 470 experienced ICU nurses. 

“It’s of great concern that there are all these gaps. It’s horrendous,” Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC, said at the sitting. “I hope this modelling is not accurate and that we can get better control of this.” 

During his budget vote on Friday, Masuku said that his department would fill nearly 2,000 vacant critical posts in health care, he reiterated this on Tuesday that this was still the plan especially for nurses.

“We are finalising the contracting of healthcare workers, which include nurses,” Masuku said. 

Masuku also spoke about the issue around delays around  testing. He highlighted that between 1 May 2020- 14 June 2020, 173,450 tests have been done and 138,450 tests have been processed, but there has been a backlog of 35,000 tests.

Masuku said that this was due to the fact that the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) had to deal with the backlog in Western Cape and Eastern Cape before dealing with Gauteng but is confident that backlog will be sorted out. 

“We have taken the posture that we are going to process all the tests that were done,” Masuku said. “I think we owe it to the individuals and to the country to complete the process.” 

Masuku told members that after people get tested, for hospital patients they receive their results in 48 hours, but for community screening and testing, it takes between five to 11 days. 

This, Bloom argued, has to be improved.

“If you have to wait that long for the test results it defeats the purpose, what is the point?” Bloom said. “I mean, we are trying to track contacts but if swabs are over a certain age there is no point in them being tested.” DM

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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