Tshepong Hospital in the North West. Picture: GALLO IMAGES / MUNTU VILAKAZI
Tshepong Hospital in the North West. Picture: GALLO IMAGES / MUNTU VILAKAZI

Gauteng and Western Cape are bracing for a surge in Covid-19 cases, and are rapidly scaling back on the number of patients using their facilities.

Similar moves are being taken by some of the private hospital groups, based on their risk assessments

Reported cases of Covid-19 in SA surged past 400 on Monday, 18 days after the first case was confirmed on March 5. A total of 402 cases have been reported, in all nine provinces, with the majority in Gauteng (207) and Western Cape (100).

The Gauteng health department announced last week that it was cancelling all elective surgery, slashing visiting hours and reducing the number of people using its outpatient facilities. Similar measures came into force in the Western Cape on Monday to decongest health facilities and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission within hospitals to protect staff and patients.

“In line with the presidential announcement (of a state of national disaster on March 15) our services must adjust to minimise human contact and the spread of the virus,” said Western Cape head of health Beth Engelbrecht.

In addition to postponing nonurgent surgery, stable patients are being discharged early, nonurgent outpatient appointments are being postponed, and patient support group meetings have been suspended for the next six weeks.

The Hospital Association of SA, which represents private hospitals, said its members had not co-ordinated their response to Covid-19, but were taking steps to prepare their facilities.

Netcare’s director of strategy and health policy, Melanie Da Costa, said elective surgery was going ahead for the time being, but the group was closely watching the developing situation and stepped up infection control and screening measures.

Gazebos or tents were being erected at entrances to emergency departments and main hospital entrances, where staff members would screen everyone entering Netcare hospitals for Covid-19. Netcare was also deploying ultraviolet disinfection robots to as many of its hospitals as possible.

“These mobile robots have been proven to be extremely effective in identifying and destroying viruses, bacteria and fungal spores,” she said.

Da Costa said 12% of Netcare’s beds were intensive care unit beds, but declined to say how many ventilators it had, saying that its capacity was “substantial”.

“Netcare hospitals are equipped with isolation facilities, which were in place well before the emergence of Covid-19. Should any person with Covid-19 be admitted, they will be individually isolated and nursed in order to protect other persons being cared for in hospital,” she said.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za