Gauteng braces itself for Covid-19 storm
After months of modelling and planning for a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases, Gauteng is seeing a rapid rise in cases requiring hospitalisation.
Gauteng residents will need to be more vigilant as the province experiences an unprecedented increase of Covid-19 infections. In what has been described as “a storm”, Premier David Makhura says that residents are going to have to adhere to lockdown regulations.
“The storm is here. Gauteng now has the largest number of active cases as a result of the daily infection rate. All we know is that the month of July is going to be a tough month”.
With over 32 743 active cases in the province, the premier says that the pandemic has increased way beyond the projections that experts had made.
“Our health services are feeling the pressure already and this is because the pandemic is running far ahead than what was projected. But we cannot just throw our hands in the air and say there is nothing we can do. We are exploring the re-introduction of harsher lockdown regulations,” adds Makhura.
Lockdown relaxation led to rapid upsurge
According to Makhura, the relaxation of lockdown regulations over the last four months have led to the rapid increase of cases.
During level five of the lockdown, between the months of March and April, the province had over 1 037 confirmed cases with 948 recoveries and 11 deaths.
Currently, there are 45 944 confirmed cases with 12 957 recoveries and 244 deaths, with numbers expected to rise further between the months of July and August. The provincial health department is working on increasing the number of beds as more patients require hospitalisation.
“We have a systemic way of how we are going to approach the issue of beds and field hospitals. Our aim is to make sure that all patients should be able to get a bed when they need it,” says Gauteng Health MEC, Dr Bandile Masuku.
A gap analysis done by the Provincial Command Council shows that an additional 410 critical care and 1091 general ward beds will be needed by the end of July.
Before the peak – which is expected to be in early September – 2 027 critical and 5 948 general ward beds will be needed. Both private and public hospitals have a combined number of 8 301 available beds, from a total of 8 730 bed capacity in all hospitals within the province.
Another 1 575 beds are expected to be created at five existing hospitals by the end of July. Currently, 3 091 patients have been admitted at both private and public healthcare facilities.
Masuku admits that this has added pressure to the healthcare system.
“Yes, the system is feeling the pressure. We are worried and anxious about this pressure and some of the lockdown regulations should come back to give the system a breather, and to save lives.”
Masuku also raised concerns about the rising number of Covid-19 positive public servants, at 1 641, which includes healthcare workers.
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Alcohol plays it’s part
Professor Steve Moeng, a trauma specialist at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital gives insight into the pressure placed on trauma units due to the sale of alcohol.
“This country sees more trauma cases than what you see in a war-torn area and most of the trauma is preventable. Two other issues are that it’s the flu season, and that we are seeing an increase in trauma load with the different levels of lockdown,” Moeng says.
The contribution that alcohol makes in trauma related cases shouldn’t be ignored, the specialist urges.
“We are asking that, for us to work with this load which already stretches healthcare workers, and to shift some of them to assist more Covid-19 loaded areas, it will help if what is preventable and what can be managed, is given as much attention as possible. And I’m afraid, alcohol does contribute to trauma and we need to be able to deal with that.”
According to him, during level five of the lockdown, the trauma unit saw 20% trauma related cases and the numbers increased to about 60% as restrictions were relaxed. They are now at about 80% since the introduction of level three.
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Moeng also shares how healthcare workers have seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 related cases being admitted at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.
“I can assure you that in one of our institutions [Charlotte Maxeke] we had one ward in March and April where we could deal with PUIs [patients under investigation] and Covid-19 positive patients, and in the past 10 to 14 days, we now have more than seven wards which are dedicated to those patients. If you don’t believe it, then I can assure you that as healthcare workers, our load of and our amount of Covid-19-related problems and patients are going up.”
He further adds that more vigilance is needed by healthcare professional as some of the cases do not present with the classical screening features that were initially identified to be symptoms of the virus.
Gauteng residents are further being encouraged to adhere to hygiene measures as stipulated in the regulations, to avoid large gatherings such as marches and funerals, to continue wearing masks and to continue going outside when it is necessary to do so. – Health-e News