Although Covid-19 patients occupy the hospitals in the Western Cape, these health facilities have never been completely overwhelmed.
Says Dr. Pieter Roelofse, internist and head of the Covid-19 intensive care unit at Bellville Melomed Hospital.
He says as far as he knows, the Western Cape has never experienced the situation in the past month as it is now in Gauteng where there are not enough hospital beds for the Covid-19 patients.
“With us, a private hospital, we were busy, but we were never completely overwhelmed.
“My colleagues here (in the Western Cape) who work for the state confirm this. “Of course they (the state hospitals) attract a larger number of people, but I never got the impression that they could not handle the numbers.”
He also referred to the fact that the field hospital in the Cape Town International Conference Center (Kiks) was not yet full to its capacity.
Rapport reported on Sunday that doctors and nurses in Gauteng have to decide due to a shortage of beds in intensive care units whose lives they will try to save.
Dr. Bandile Masuku, Gauteng MEC for health, said in response to this that no patient in the province should be turned away when they need medical help.
“Patients waiting to be admitted must be stabilized at that hospital while waiting for a bed elsewhere in the province. There they will then receive further treatment.
“This is our approach to managing available beds.”
The latest data on Monday show that Gauteng had 107 713 confirmed cases and the Western Cape 79 344. The coronavirus epidemiological model of the University of the Western Cape (UWC)’s division for nuclear physics now shows that the Western Cape may already have peaked at its infection rate.
The pressure on health workers
Roelofse recently showed in a video what his daily routine in the treatment of Covid-19 patients looks like.
A patient in this video died shortly after its recording. In the video on his cellphone, Roelofse talks to the patient’s family and reassures them that he is receiving the best possible care.
When the uncle spoke to his wife the day before, it was quite moving, says Roelofse.
“When she said ‘hello, Daddy’ he moved his eyes and blinked at her. It was very emotional. Quite something to see.
“He looked so good that day. The next day, when the video was taken, he deteriorated drastically and he died the same day.
“I think it meant a lot to the family that they could see him, talk to him and that he could react with his eyebrows and his eyes.”
The man was one of three who have so far died in this hospital to Covid-19.
Roelofse says there is an increase in the number of patients to be admitted, but the numbers vary from week to week.
“About a month ago, we had 28 to 30 people in the Covid-19 guard unit. And a week later, the number dropped drastically as the patients recovered. It is very interesting (that the numbers vary so much) and I do not quite understand why this is happening. “
Roelofse has been working non-stop for the past eight months. According to him, this is not usually the case because he can take school holidays.
“But Covid-19 changed the world completely and we could not actually take leave. To complicate matters, one of the doctors at our hospital fell ill. He was part of our team of three who took turns working in the Covid-19 guard unit to try to limit our exposure.
“But a few days before the video was made, he became ill. So I was alone in the hall then. At one point, I was in the hall for 14 consecutive days. It was just a difficult time. “
Roelofse says the vast majority of his patients respond well to just oxygen when they are admitted. “It is only about 15% of the cases that are taken up with respiratory symptoms (shortness of breath), and the average person is hospitalized for about five days and on oxygen. We give them oxygen and sometimes moisture.
“Most perform excellently only on oxygen. “Everyone who was admitted and did not have to go to the intensive care unit could be discharged with relatively few symptoms.”