Hospitals on the Garden Route are under severe pressure as a Covid-19 resurgence takes hold, the Western Cape Department of Health has warned.
"Public hospitals in the Garden Route are under severe pressure, especially George Regional and Knysna Hospitals," said Nadia Ferreira, spokesperson for the department in the southern Cape.
"They do, however, still have capacity for emergencies. We ask that all patients with non-life-threatening conditions access healthcare services at their nearest clinic," she said.
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Private hospital group Life Healthcare had already cancelled unnecessary elective and non-emergency surgeries in Knysna and Mossel Bay in preparation for the next wave of patients who would need acute and intensive care.
The Life Healthcare group said it had already seconded extra staff to help in Knysna after pausing its elective and non-emergency procedures. Dr Charl van Loggerenberg, General Manager for Emergency Medicine, said:
"At this point Life Knysna Private Hospital and Life Bay View Hospital in Mossel Bay Covid wards are not at full capacity, however, to ensure we are prepared to deal with the expected pressures, unnecessary elective and non-emergency surgeries are postponed indefinitely and additional staff have been seconded to Knysna."
The Garden Route was one of the last regions in the Western Cape to record Covid-19 cases as the pandemic swept across South Africa.
However, cases rose rapidly, mostly in towns along the N2.
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Local authorities had already closed many public facilities as a precaution, such as sport fields where large groups gather.
The Western Cape Department of Health warned that the Cape Metro was next, and was pleading for people to abide by Covid-19 safety measures.
Dr Keith Cloete, the head of the Department of Health in the province, pleaded for compliance to safety precautions and called for responsible behaviour.
He said in a briefing on Wednesday that some people were refusing to be tested or to isolate, and in the Cape Metro large crowds were gathering in public.
Some people were also going to work in spite of knowing that they have Covid-19, raising fears of further community transmission.
He said some people who contracted the virus were going out shopping and in some municipalities law enforcement had started fining people for violating Covid-19 regulations.
A case in Khayelitsha in Cape Town attended a funeral in the Eastern Cape and was not forthcoming with 15 contacts in a taxi with them, and also went back to work.
Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC, Anton Bredell, said a disaster management Joint Operations Centre would look at enforcing existing disaster management regulations.
"The move to stronger enforcement comes as a result of the growing number of Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations in the province. Over the last week alone, the province has witnessed a 52.1% jump in new cases, primarily in the Garden Route and the Cape Metro regions," he said.
The JOC had a direct link to the SA Police Service, as well as municipal law enforcement, including traffic law enforcement, environmental health practitioners in the Western Cape and the Department of Labour.
Bredell said enforcement would be carried out in a coordinated approach in the province with joint and regular inspections of places of work, entertainment venues, public gatherings, isolation and quarantine sites.
Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo appealed to people to be careful when out Black Friday shopping, pushing for bargains, as they might expose vulnerable and elderly people to the virus at home.