South Africa

Intervention team to help with Covid-19 triage centres' bed crisis, says Mkhize

Cape Town – An emergency intervention team from the National Health Department will help provinces, in particular Gauteng, to create more hospital beds for Covid-19 patients, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Monday.

Mkhize conceded in a media briefing that the sudden surge in infections, with daily increases of several thousands, had caught the health system in Gauteng off-guard.  "The sudden increase in a short space of time is what really jacked the system."

The minister said the requirements had been made more onerous still because of the decision that new beds must also be coupled with oxygen reticulation availability, hence the Health Department was now sourcing additional oxygen from the industrial sector for use in hospitals.

He explained that while South Africa's health services have not run out of bed space for Covid-19 patients yet, a backlog in terms of testing had created bottlenecks in so-called triad wards where those admitted wait for the results of their coronavirus tests.

The results were needed for staff to decide whether to transfer a patient to a ward reserved for Covid-19 patients, but as the country ran out of testing material and delays of several days occurred, triad wards were running out of space.

"We have not yet breached the level of beds that we currently have, particularly at an ICU, we have still got quite a lot of capacity, but the blockage we have observed comes from the triad centres," he said.

Mkhize said he had consequently assembled a team to help set up more beds, but that it was also imperative to bring the turnaround time for coronavirus tests down to under two days.

"I have set up a special team, which is an emergency intervention team from the national office which is now working with the provincial government to ensure that all the hospitals are able to absorb as many people with additional beds."

The briefing comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday evening that the government was reintroducing a ban on alcohol sales with immediate effect to stop the influx of injuries linked to alcohol abuse at emergency units.

Mkhize said the reintroduction of a night time curfew from 9pm on Monday was necessary because it was apparent that people were gathering socially "with or without alcohol" and that this could contribute to transmission.

He said while it was inevitable that the number of infections would continue to surge, "the extent to which the surge grows" depended on human behaviour.

South Africa currently has more than 276 000 cases with most of those located in Gauteng. The province has recorded daily increases of several thousand in the past fortnight and was expected to pass the 100 000 mark on Monday.

African News Agency (ANA)

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