CORONAVIRUS EASTERN CAPE

Port Elizabeth field hospital still not open

By Estelle Ellis 1 July 2020
Caption
The 1,485-bed field hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay. (Photo: Mike Holmes)

A week after a field hospital providing an additional 1,485 beds to Nelson Mandela Bay was handed over to the Eastern Cape Department of Health, the facility is still not ready to accept patients. The metro currently faces a hospital bed crisis with all hospitals at full capacity.

Eastern Cape Department of Health role-players were locked in meetings on Tuesday night after a week went by without authorities being able to open the 1,485-bed field hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay.

An old vehicle manufacturing plant was converted to a hospital in just seven weeks in a joint project between Volkswagen South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, with additional digital systems support provided by the Nelson Mandela University.

The facility was handed over to the Eastern Cape Department of Health last week. Since then, bed capacity in the metro’s hospitals, both private and public, has been reduced to almost none as patients seek help for Covid-19.

A few hundred of the field hospital’s beds are equipped to provide oxygen to patients. As of Tuesday 30 June, the Nelson Mandela Bay metro had 7,174 cases of Covid-19 and 119 deaths from the coronavirus.

Hospitals were full at the weekend. Premier Oscar Mabuyane admitted that the province’s health system was “overwhelmed” by the pandemic.

On Tuesday 30 June, during a briefing of the joint operations committee for the Eastern Cape, Mabuyane said the Rev. Dr Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni field hospital “will give us 1,485 beds soon, and 3,300 beds when completed”.

The department’s deputy director-general for clinical services, Dr Litha Matiwane, did not respond to questions about an opening date. Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said “it was a work in progress”. The head of the infectious disease department at Livingstone Hospital, Dr John Black, confirmed that the hospital was not open yet.

An advertisement for 314 posts at the field hospital was published on Friday 26 June, with the closing date of Friday 3 July. The bulk of the vacancies are for nurses and nursing assistants, while several are for doctors, radiographers, pharmacists and operational managers.

Mabuyane said they now want to build a field hospital for each district and also for Buffalo City, with 500 beds per hospital.  

“This will give us a combined total of 4,000 medical beds throughout the province. These are not normal beds. These are medical beds with all required medical resources and high-care medical equipment to save lives. We have recruited an additional 1,000 nurses and over 5,000 community health workers in the province as part of the Covid-19 response team.”

Mabuyane said the province had awarded 42 contracts worth R222.8-million to Eastern Cape contractors for refurbishment of 34 health facilities across the province for “Covid-19 purposes”. 

“These projects are currently at various stages of implementation, with 20 projects having already been completed, 12 projects planned to be completed at the end of July 2020, with the completion of the remaining 10 projects earmarked for the end of August 2020.”

Last week Mabuyane said 40 nurses and five doctors had been appointed at the Port Elizabeth field hospital. But it is understood that the facility needs at least 12 doctors.

An advertisement for 314 posts at the field hospital was published on Friday 26 June, with the closing date of Friday 3 July. The bulk of the vacancies are for nurses and nursing assistants, while several are for doctors, radiographers, pharmacists and operational managers.

Professor Darelle van Greunen from the university’s Centre for Community Technologies said the hospital will set the trend for change in the province’s health solutions. She said a paperless healthcare solution would be implemented at the field hospital to assist in creating unique insights into the outbreak in specific geographical areas.

“It is safe to say that the field hospital will set the trend for a change in our healthcare solutions. It is totally paperless and is customised for the Eastern Cape.

“To supplement the Hospital Management Solution, there is the incorporation of unique clinical factors such as comorbidities that will be captured to better profile patients that are admitted to the facility.”

At this stage, it remains unclear when the facility will begin to accept patients. DM/MC 

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