Abdool Karim: Halt elective surgeries, use field hospitals & act to curb booze excesses
'It’s not that there are no beds — you have to plan to have enough beds'
Clear hospital wards as much as possible, stop elective surgeries and make use of field hospitals.
According to Prof Salim Abdool Karim, these are the measures SA needs to implement to prepare for the peak of the Covid-19 third wave.
Abdool Karim, former head of the ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, told TimesLIVE on Tuesday that it will take at least two weeks until the third wave peaks.
“We are about two weeks out and what does that mean? It means you need to clear your hospitals now.
“You need to get all your elective surgeries stopped, you need to get all the patients who don’t need to be in hospital to be discharged, you need to clear out the wards so that you can allocate more beds and more wards for Covid-19,” Abdool Karim said.
“Hospitals are busy all the time and have patients coming in all the time, so when they are in this kind of situation, where they are going into a surge, they need to prepare for that. You can’t do your normal hospital work and also Covid, that’s not manageable.”
Abdool Karim said the government also had to institute measures that would reduce alcohol-related admissions at hospitals. He said alcohol admissions require the same healthcare services that you need for Covid-19.
“Alcohol needs emergency rooms, it needs theatre time, it needs ICU beds, it needs ventilators, because these people come in with motor vehicle accidents, they come in with injuries from interpersonal violence and so on.
“It’s not that there are no beds — it is you have to plan to have enough beds.”
He said field hospitals could be used to admit the less severe patients to free up space in hospitals.
In the next two weeks the cases in Gauteng are really going to go high, and that means you need hospital beds.Prof Salim Abdool Karim
“In addition, you create field hospitals. To deal with the crunch time, you have to have additional hospital beds.”
Abdool Karim said data showed that the second wave grew faster, higher and put more pressure on healthcare services than the first wave.
Stats showed that almost twice as many people were hospitalised per day during the second wave compared to the first wave.
“The second was really severe.”
He said it was too early to project the trajectory of the third wave.
“The three waves follow the same kind of pathway, which means in the next two weeks the cases in Gauteng are really going to go high and that means you are going to need beds.
“It is still early and we don’t know how much higher it is going to go.”
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Monday said Gauteng accounted for more than two-thirds of the 5,500 Covid-19 cases recorded across SA in 24 hours.
The latest national figures show there were 5,552 new infections recorded, with 3,720 of those (67%) in Gauteng.
The Gauteng government this week hinted at a harder lockdown level in the province, but Abdool Karim believed it was too late.
“In my view Gauteng should have had stricter regulations a while back, when the president announced the restrictions. You want to give yourself time to try to bend this and not let it keep going.”
He warned that South Africans should not become complacent.
“We are still living in the midst of a pandemic. We can’t ignore the fact that this virus is ever-present. We have to ensure that we don’t get complacent because we can slow the spread of this virus.
“Vaccines are a very important part of it, but we have slowed the spread of this virus before without vaccines, we can do it again.”