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Durban – As hospitals in Gauteng rapidly fill up amid a surge of sick people needing medical help for Covid-19, the Netcare hospital group said it was increasing its bed capacity, ramping up oxygen supply and bringing in more medical professionals to assist.
Describing the Covid-19 surge – particularly in Gauteng – as “fast escalating” Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare said they were doing their best for all patients seeking care at any of their hospitals or clinics.
“We have substantially increased our COVID-19 bed capacity, contracted more resident medical officers and clinical associates and made every effort to ensure that we have adequate supplies of oxygen, the appropriate medication, as well as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to last us through this surge. We have also implemented additional strict infection prevention and control policies and demand fastidious adherence to these standard operating procedures, which are at all times aligned to the guidelines and protocols issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Department of Health (NDoH),” Friedman said.
Statistics from the National Department of Health on Thursday showed that Gauteng had 74 588 active Covid-19 cases – the most in the country.
This as South Africa’s Covid-19 deaths edged towards the 60 000 mark after 59 406 people had succumbed to the virus on Thursday.
Friedman said there has been a significant demand on their hospital capacity.
“The extremely high number of persons with Covid-19 seeking care at our hospitals – and with the numbers continuing to increase – has, however, placed significant demand on our facilities, requiring us to make decisions regarding levels of care and certain treatment modalities. All these decisions are based on recognised international guidelines of triage, which means that treatment is allocated based on priority, and transition of care.
“Our clinicians, nursing and management teams will provide the best care available to our patients, but may not, in circumstances where the demand exceeds or overwhelms the capacity, be able to provide all treatment options that may be available in normal, non-pandemic circumstances.
“Our clinicians will make these decisions based on the availability of resources and their best clinical judgement. We fully support them in this difficult task and complex decision-making process,” he said.
Dr Friedland explained that in practical terms this may mean that levels of care such as ICU and High Care, ventilators or certain oxygen delivery modalities may not be available to all patients at all times.
As part of their disaster management planning, they had commissioned Clinical Decision Units, at those Gauteng hospitals with emergency departments.
This, Netcare said would ease the burden on the emergency department at these hospitals and will enable the stabilisation of patients prior to admission in a ward.
The Clinical Decision Units provide as a minimum oxygenation, ablution facilities and safe areas for donning and doffing of personal protective equipment for nurses and doctors.
Dr Friedland added that Netcare facilities throughout Gauteng continued to experience an unprecedented demand on bed capacity.
“We humbly request your understanding as we may not in certain instances be able to provide communication and updates as regularly as we would under normal circumstances. We have employed additional social workers at our facilities to provide both support to patients and their families. Next-of-kin of patients admitted are welcome to call the Netcare Family Connect line on 0800 111 266, and one of our trained call centre professionals will arrange for a dedicated hospital representative to provide them with personal feedback on how their loved one in hospital is doing,” Friedland said.
“During these uncertain and difficult times, we appreciate the public’s patience and understanding, and I want to assure you that we are working as hard as humanly possible on the frontline to provide the best and safest care we can to our patients during this challenging time.
“The best way you can support South Africa is to take Covid-19 extremely seriously and be more cautious than ever. Please remain vigilant to help protect your loved ones, yourself, and the healthcare system. It is critical for each individual to closely adhere to Covid-19 precautions including washing their hands regularly, avoiding social gatherings, ensuring that your work and home environment is well ventilated, maintaining social distancing, and always wearing a mask in public and when in the presence of others, to protect themselves and to help prevent the spread of the virus.
“We cannot emphasise strongly enough the need for all these precautions to be diligently followed, as every person has a responsibility to help ‘flatten this new curve’ to avoid contracting and passing on the virus,” said Friedland.