KZN department of health gives beleaguered Durban hospital a week to move dialysis patients

20 April 2020 - 11:58 By Lwandile Bhengu
All entrances to St Augustine's hospital in Durban were closed after an outbreak of Covid-19 cases that infected patients and staff.
All entrances to St Augustine's hospital in Durban were closed after an outbreak of Covid-19 cases that infected patients and staff.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The KwaZulu-Natal department of health (DOH) has given St Augustine's hospital a week to move dialysis patients out of its centre after several patients there tested positive for Covid-19.

The centre, which is housed in a building separate from the main hospital, was allowed to continue operating because of a shortage of dialysis centres. This came amid a directive from the provincial department to shut down St Augustine's after 66 people there tested positive for the coronavirus.

"As of Wednesday, we were informed that about seven patients in that facility had been found to be positive. We are now faced with a situation where we have to instruct, and have indicated to St Augustine's, that they must find alternative centres for these patients to receive dialysis," said KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu.

Simelane-Zulu said the hospital had assured them it was not possible for the virus to move into the dialysis centre because the affected health-care workers worked only in the main hospital.

She was speaking at a media briefing on Sunday, where KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala indicated the province would be clamping down on lockdown rules. This would include compelling all those who have tested positive to be self-isolated and quarantined at state facilities.

The MEC said they had given the hospital a week to get its house in order because of the risks of abruptly stopping dialysis.

"We are giving St Augustine's an opportunity. We've given them a week to say what they are going to do with these patients and where they are going to take them. They need to test all of them and indicate how many, other than the seven we know about, have tested positive," she said.

The MEC said the clinical aspect of the investigation in terms of testing had been completed at St Augustine's.

In response, National Renal Care (NRC) - a joint venture between Netcare and Adcock Ingram critical care - confirmed that seven patients at the dialysis unit located at the hospital premises had tested positive for Covid-19.

"The hospital and NRC are in close contact with the KZN DOH with regard to this issue," said NRC CEO Robert Souter.

Meanwhile, the KZN legislature's health portfolio committee said they were concerned about the growing number of infections in the private sector.

Committee chair Nomakiki Majola said a committee with members from the public and private sectors needed to be formed to beat the pandemic.

"As public sector, we have and we know what our plans are in dealing with Covid-19 through our commanding structure led by the minister of health - but little do we know of their plans in the private sector," she said.