Joburg hospital gets new ICU ward as Covid-19 cases keep climbing
"Our medical workers are fighting an invisible war and our health-care workers are getting the bullets. Already over 1,000 of our soldiers have contracted the virus."
This is according to the head of the Gauteng health department, Prof Mkhululi Lukhele, who was speaking at the unveiling of a new intensive care unit ward at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Lukhele said health care in Gauteng was imperative because the province was the business hub of the country.
"If Gauteng falls, then the country is in trouble. We are the second-highest province in terms of infections [with 45,944 recorded infections, behind the Western Cape with 6,4377 recorded infections on Thursday] and Johannesburg is in the lead with more than 21,000 positive cases," he said.
"This hospital serves region F and some of region D of the city - which includes Hillbrow, Alexandra township and Diepsloot - the leading [areas] in positive cases."
The additional 29 beds were donated by FirstRand’s Spire fund to combat the rising number of Covid-19 cases seeking treatment at the hospital.
The new ward cost R5m and will be one of two new wards donated by Spire.
Charlotte Maxeke's 17 Covid-19 wards had already reached a combined 80% capacity and it was a matter of time before the hospital would have to start turning patients away.
The hospital's cardiology ward was chosen for the Covid-19 cases because it already had the life-support equipment which is needed for critical patients.
Prof Mervyn Mer, a principal specialist in critical care and pulmonology, said the hospital had definitely seen a dramatic escalation in the number of coronavirus cases just in the past week. The hospital was currently treating 243 of these patients.
"We are lucky enough not to have to turn [Covid-19] patients away. Our Covid ICU is one of the best in the country and we began setting up for the virus before it reached SA," he said.
"The additional beds mean that we more than double our capacity for Covid patients."
He said the escalation in the number of positive cases started two weeks earlier than they had predicted, so they were late in terms of being ready to receive more patients.
The new ward is bright and overlooks the city. Mer explained that ventilation is integral to the fight against the virus, so this ward was chosen because it had so many windows. When patients arrive, the windows will be open but covered with a screen.
"Droplets from the mouth and nose can stay in the air for up to three hours, so ventilation is important to stop the spread of the virus," he said.
FirstRand Group COO Mary Vilakazi said the Spire fund had raised R100m, adding that this project would be used as a template for other ICU expansions, including another ward at Charlotte Maxeke, as well as wards at Livingstone and Dora Nginza hospitals in the Eastern Cape.
Spire was also looking into projects at King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban and Dr George Mukhari Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa, Gauteng.