Gauteng’s problem is not the sharp rise in coronavirus cases, but rather the short period in which it has occurred.
This is why there is now a shortage of hospital beds in the province, says dr. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
The Gauteng Department of Health said on Friday that it would need 8,000 beds in critical care (high care and intensive care unit) and more than 25,000 ordinary hospital beds at the peak of the infection rate, but according to its current plan, it only provides for 14,933 ordinary beds.
By Monday, there had been 98,431 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the province and 644 people had already died from Covid-19.
Gauteng’s low recovery rate is attributed by Mkhize to the recent sharp rise in new infections.
At the beginning of June, Gauteng stood at 4,000 confirmed cases and a month later it was at 40,000. The recovery rate is currently low because it takes time for those who contracted the virus to recover.
At Friday’s media conference, the health department said it would accommodate another 2 366 beds by five existing hospitals by the end of August.
The hospitals are the Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Kopanong Hospital, Jubilee Hospital and Tembisa Hospital. Between the hospitals, they will receive 2,174 critical care and 192 regular beds. By Friday, they already had 257 beds in critical care units and 89 beds available in regular halls.
Masuku says they are also making single beds available in other hospitals.
A total of 3,920 beds will be provided in field hospitals at Nasrec (1 000), Diepsloot (500), Soshanguve (500), Daveyton (720) and the Tshwane shoulder area (700).
By Friday, a total of 8,301 critical care and ordinary beds were available in private and public hospitals.
This brings the total number of beds to 14 933.
Looking at forecasts, however, it is a drop in the bucket of the number of beds the province will need at its peak.
According to the national Covid-19 model of a consortium of scientists, Gauteng will reach its peak between mid-August and early September.
By the peak, there will be 313,000 to 400,000 active, symptomatic cases and 8,000 to 11,000 critical care beds and 25,000 to 30,000 regular hospital beds.
According to Gauteng’s own models, the peak will hit the province in early September. It predicts that there will then be 419,654 to 541,137 active symptomatic cases, while the province will need 7,973 to 10,281 critical care beds and 54,873 to 70,888 ordinary beds.
Harry Moultrie of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases says they hope to release their latest long-term forecast for South Africa by the end of the week.
Prof. Susan Goldstein, deputy director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Center for Health Economics, says Gauteng’s shortage of critical care beds began long before the pandemic.
She says 80% of people who contract the virus will have mild or no symptoms, but that 15% should be hospitalized and 5% admitted to critical care units.
“It’s low, but it is still essential that beds, oxygen and ventilators are available for these people,” Goldstein says.
She says health workers are under pressure and nervous.
There is also a shortage of staff because those who have the virus among members cannot go to work.
John Steenhuisen, interim chairman of the DA, told Netwerk24 on Monday that only the Western Cape’s field hospitals are now ready.
“Nasrec in Gauteng began as a quarantine facility. They are now trying to bring oxygen points and staff the place, but that should have happened a long time ago.
“It definitely doesn’t work fully. Fully functioning requires hospital beds to be staffed by medical personnel and equipped with oxygen. To the best of our knowledge, the other field hospitals are only in the planning phase, ”says Steenhuisen.
Asked about the functionality of the field hospitals, Mkhize said on Monday that they initially needed minimal equipment.
Kwara Kekana, spokesperson for the Gauteng health department, says the government has entered into an agreement with the private sector for the use of its beds, “at a certain cost to the government”.
She said the department has been hiring additional doctors and nursing staff since March. She denied reports that the province had an oxygen deficit.
She does confirm that apart from a shortage of beds, there are also water problems at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg.
Kekana says water tanks were set up at the hospital on Sunday and a water tanker was also deployed there on Monday.