‘It’s very bad’: Gauteng private hospitals take strain as third wave hits

14 June 2021 - 16:15
By iavan pijoos AND Iavan Pijoos
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Sunday night that 7,657 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in SA. Stock photo.
Image: Tyler Olson/123RF.com The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Sunday night that 7,657 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in SA. Stock photo.

Private hospitals in Gauteng are under severe strain as Covid-19 infections continue to rise by the thousands in the province.

“You will not get a bed for Covid-19. It is extremely difficult. People are also lying in the casualty [wards] in the private sectors,” SA Medical Association (Sama) chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said.

“It is very bad and there is nothing we can do about it. Therefore we are asking the elderly people to go and vaccinate because the hospitals are full of elderly people. Doctors cannot cope if there is not a bed, so you stress.”

Coetzee said the warning bells had been sounded for the third wave, which had now well and truly hit. Last week, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) officially declared a third wave in SA.

“This whole weekend I sat with patients who could not be admitted and whose oxygen levels were low. So you know how stressful that is? Do you know how it feels that the patient can die and there is no bed and you have to treat that patient out of hospital?

“There is no increase in beds, there is no increase in doctors and there is no increase in nurses — and it is not going to change,” she said.

The Gauteng health department said more than 3,500 patients were admitted in hospitals, of which more than 1,000 were in ICU and high care. Just over 2,400 were admitted in general wards.

The NICD said on Sunday night that 7,657 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in SA, at a positivity rate of 17.2%. This means that there have now been 1,747,082 confirmed Covid-19 infections across the country.

Of the new cases, 4,891 were in Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape (663 cases) and the North West (521 cases), the NICD said.

A senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Ridhwaan Suliman, shared a graph on Twitter on Sunday illustrating that Gauteng accounted for 61% of total cases in SA last week.

Suliman said more than 30,800 cases had been reported in the province, up by 74% from the previous week. He said the current bed occupancy in Gauteng stood at 3,859 with over 2,100 new hospital admissions in the past week.

“Deaths in Gauteng [are] rising now too, with up to 37 reported deaths per day on average over past week,” he said.

Gauteng provincial government spokesperson Thabo Masebe confirmed that the province had seen an increase in hospital admissions.

“The numbers are increasing and we are monitoring. The private sector is the one that is feeling more pressure, because most of the ICU beds are actually in the private sector.

“A lot of them are running at around 90% occupation now. Most of the people, especially those who can afford it and are on medical aid, first go to the private sector and only when the private sector is full, they go to the public [sector]," Masebe said.

Masebe said occupancy in public hospitals was about 60%.

“There is still capacity in the public sector but we will also I suppose, in the coming weeks, if the numbers continue to rise start feeling the pressure,” he said.

Dr Mathabo Mathebula, CEO of Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, said they were “coping” but not “confidently” as hospital admissions continue to rise “at a rapid rate”.

“We don’t know what can happen at any point in time, because we might find ourselves overwhelmed. The difficulty is that Covid-19 doesn’t only affect the elderly but the younger people too.”

Mathebula said there were 131 beds available at the Tshwane district hospital that catered for Covid-19 patients. There were only 79 Covid-19 patients admitted at the hospital.  

The Netcare Group said they were noticing a “steady uptick” in Covid-19 cases in its hospitals nationwide, but most noticeably in Gauteng.

“The situation, however, remains fluid and changes on a daily basis,” said Jacques du Plessis, MD of Netcare’s hospital division.