Too afraid to go to public hospital, many are dying of Covid-19 at home

11 January 2021 - 16:28
A health department executive says people 'are quite afraid to go into hospital and we really need to encourage them to do that early because going in late is far more catastrophic'.
A health department executive says people 'are quite afraid to go into hospital and we really need to encourage them to do that early because going in late is far more catastrophic'.
Image: 123RF/Yuriy Klochan

Many critically ill Covid-19 sufferers appear to be dying at home because they are too afraid to go to a public hospital, a top government health official said on Monday.

As a result, private hospitals are in some cases transferring patients to public facilities where there is more space, said Dr Anban Pillay, health department deputy director-general responsible for health regulation and sector-wide procurement of essential medicines.

“You get a call to say a person is having difficulty breathing, but are scared to go into hospital,” Pillay said in an interview with Business Day TV.

“The public are quite afraid to go into hospital and we really need to encourage them to do that early because going in late is far more catastrophic.”

Pillay said the problem has resulted in an “unexpected transfer of patients from private hospitals into public hospitals”. The cause of the problem was unclear, but may relate to people misunderstanding the severity of their condition.  

Prof Alex van den Heever from the Wits School of Governance said the same phenomenon occurred in the first wave of the epidemic. He said excess death figures compiled by the Medical Research Council also suggested many people were dying before reaching hospital.

“When you examine the excess death info, it suggests that we have far more people who should have gone to hospital but didn’t,” Van den Heever said.

“The public sector may in fact not be receiving all the patients that it should.”

He said understanding the problem would require investigating specific hospital catchments to areas.

TimesLIVE


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