Western Cape ratchets up drive to get protective equipment for health workers

22 April 2020 - 11:02
By Claire Keeton
Cape Town anaesthetist Richard Philbrick in a PPE suit to protect against Covid-19.
Image: Martinique Stilwell Cape Town anaesthetist Richard Philbrick in a PPE suit to protect against Covid-19.

The Western Cape is working hard to get the protective equipment needed to keep health-care workers safe from Covid-19, the premier and the health department said at a briefing on Tuesday.

“At the front line of the war against Covid-19 are our health-care workers,” said premier Alan Winde.

So far, 47 of about 14,000 of them have tested positive for coronavirus.

Western Cape health department head Dr Keith Cloete said their supplies and equipment included:

  • N95 respirators: 70,000 on hand; 2.9- million on order
  • Surgical masks: 2-million on hand; 7-million on order
  • Personal protective equipment kits: 4,000 on hand; 50,000 on order
  • Gowns: 50,000 on hand; 190,000 on order
  • Ventilators: 432; 100 on order.

Cloete said there was a national process for central procurement and the Western Cape was part of it, but it did not stop the province “constantly looking” for ways to make up the shortfall.

“There is a lot of innovation in this space and local production capacity for making masks, visors and goggles, and this goes on,” he said.

The Western Cape was following a process to make sure  products were properly rated and “of the quality we need to use sufficiently in our system”.

Health-care workers are at high risk of Covid-19 infection and protective supplies are running short globally.

The first Covid-19 cases were treated in the private sector, and by Tuesday it still had more confirmed cases among doctors and nurses than the public sector. This is expected to shift when Covid-19 cases increase in the public sector.

Five doctors are infected in the private sector and three in the public sector, said Cloete. Twelve nurses are infected in the private sector and four in the public sector.

Ten more health-care workers, from pharmacists to porters, have Covid-19 in the private sector and 13 in the public sector.

Shortages of personal protective equipment and other kit to keep health-care workers safe have been a problem since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those on the front lines have also been particularly concerned about infecting their families.

Ubuntu Beds is an initiative in SA offering health-care workers a safe place to sleep away from their homes.