Eastern Cape hospitals, clinics, schools overwhelmed by Covid-19 'storm'

26 June 2020 - 12:21 By TimesLIVE
Dora Nginza Hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay is 'bursting at the seams' with Covid-19 patients. 'As soon as a porter transports a body out of the room, another patient is brought in.' File photo.
Dora Nginza Hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay is 'bursting at the seams' with Covid-19 patients. 'As soon as a porter transports a body out of the room, another patient is brought  in.' File photo.

The impact of an approaching coronavirus "storm" is being felt in the Eastern Cape as patients overwhelm some public hospitals, clinics close as staff test positive and more schoolchildren contract the virus.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize warned of the coming “devastating storm” on Tuesday while opening the initial phase of a 3,300-bed field hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“Provinces, such as the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, now have well-established cluster outbreaks that are driving a surge and will likely peak before other provinces,” he said.

There were 20,487 positive cases in the Eastern Cape as of Thursday - just over 17% of the total infections in the country.

The number of deaths in the province, at 363, means it has surpassed Gauteng (with 149 deaths) and KwaZulu-Natal (106 deaths). There have been 1,652 deaths in the Western Cape, which is the country's current epicentre of the virus.

Nelson Mandela Bay’s public hospitals are already “bursting at the seams, battling a crisis of too many patients and too few staff”, said Mkhize. 

HeraldLIVE reported on Friday that the affected hospitals were Dora Nginza, Livingstone and Uitenhage Provincial.

Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) provincial secretary Khaya Sodidi told the publication there was not enough time to decontaminate rooms in which patients had died.

“There is no time to do it. As soon as a porter transports a body out of the room, another patient is brought  in,” he said.

A doctor at Livingstone Hospital, speaking on behalf of colleagues, said the facility was “critically understaffed” and it was difficult getting stock of personal protective equipment.

Six clinics in Buffalo City Metro have been shut as staff test positive for Covid-19, reports DispatchLIVE.

Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed that the Mncotsho, Berlin, Ilitha, Ndevana, Quigney, and Frere Gateway clinics had all been temporarily closed.

“The national department of health is working on new regulations to deal with these spontaneous closures of health-care facilities and the decontamination process. We can't afford to close hospitals and clinics,” said Kupelo. 

DispatchLIVE reported on Friday that more school children in the province had contracted Covid-19, prompting concerns that the provincial education system would battle to cope as the pandemic spread.

The first eight South African citizens have taken part in an international Covid-19 vaccination trial on June 24 2020. The study is led by the SA Medical Research Council's Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Analytics research unit. Two thousand participants will be on trial for the vaccine over a period of five to six weeks.

The 204 pupils and staff who tested positive for the virus at Makaula Senior Secondary School in KwaBhaca over the past few days appeared to be “just the start of a long and difficult road ahead” as schools in Ngcobo and Mthatha also reported cases, the publication reported on Friday. 

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) in the Eastern Cape has called on the education department not to reopen schools in the province where there are concerns over access to water, toilets and proper sanitation for teachers and pupils.

“Several weeks ago I warned about an impending difficult and devastating storm ahead. All indications are that, as a country, we may be riding right into that storm whose devastating impact is expected to peak during the cold winter months. The rising numbers may be an indication that such a reality is now with us,” Mkhize said on Tuesday.

The health ministry reported on Thursday that, nationally, there had been 87 more Covid-19 related deaths over a 24-hour period:  63 in the Western Cape, 17 in the Eastern Cape,  15 in KwaZulu-Natal; and two in Gauteng.

“This brings the total national deaths to 2,292 with a mortality rate of 1.9%.”