Netcare CEO Richard Friedland says the private hospital group is buying more germ-killing Russian robots. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Netcare CEO Richard Friedland says the private hospital group is buying more germ-killing Russian robots. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital in Morningside, Durban is diverting trauma and emergency patients to other hospitals after nine patients tested positive Covid-19 of which three have died. It is also stopping all new admissions to the hospital.

Dr Richard Friedland, CEO of the Netcare Group, said in a statement on Friday afternoon that it is testing all health workers who treated the three patients who died and is testing hospital patients for the disease.

Friedland said that Netcare, on Thursday, took the “precautionary decision to increase the level of screening and testing of nursing, support and contracted staff, doctors, paramedics, as well as current patients at the hospital, to determine whether they are clear of Covid-19 infection.”

None of three patients who died had travelled recently and had no known contact with Covid-19 patients. They also had no symptoms of the disease when they were admitted to hospital — for other reasons.

The Netcare statement said that two of the patients were first admitted to the hospital on  March 9 and 13, and the third on March 14.

Hospital manager Heinrich Venter sent a message, seen by Business Day, to all hospital doctors to reschedule any Friday afternoon appointments and said all doctors, staff and patients will be tested. 

If health workers or hospital staff test positive, they will be isolated. Patients who test positive and are in hospital will also be isolated, said Friedland.

The hospital began deep cleansing on Thursday night and is making use of two, dedicated, ultra-violet light robots to kill germs over the weekend. The hospital will also screen staff entering the hospital for a fever or Covid-19 respiratory symptoms every day.

“Ongoing, daily screening of all staff, doctors and contract workers will continue before they are allowed to enter the hospital. This will enable prompt identification and testing of any people at risk who may not have had symptoms on previous days.”

The hospital has a 24-hour hotline and is contacting all patients’ families.

Friedland said: “Netcare and Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital management remain in constant contact and will continue to work closely with the national and provincial departments of health.”

One of the five patients at Bill Buchanan Association for the Aged in Morningside, who tested positive for Covid-19, was a patient at St Augustine’s hospital then went to the home to recover after an operation. The old-age home currently has four patients with the infection at the facility, who are staying in a separate building to other residents.