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COVID-19 Puts SA Hospitals Under ‘Severe Strain’

Private hospital operators in South Africa have issued a warning about their lack of capacity to handle the surge in COVID-19 cases that’s sweeping across the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa reached its first-wave peak in July, before active cases dropped off. However, the second wave and a mutated strain of the virus is crippling the country. This second wave is also striking at the worst time, with many South Africans travelling long distances over the festive season.

And, with many South Africans relying on private healthcare, the three biggest private hospital groups, Netcare, Mediclinic International and Life Healthcare, have all reached full capacity in the four most populous provinces.

“We noted a substantial resurgence in COVID-19 cases in SA and the healthcare system is under sever strains,” Life Healthcare’s General Manager, Charl van Loggerenberg, told Fin24. He also noted that ICU and high care units in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape have been “particularly under sever strain”.

Furthermore Western Cape public hospitals have also reached full capacity, according to a statement from the provincial health department.

“The 231 adult ICU/high care beds across hospitals are currently fluctuating between 80-100% total capacity daily [technically full] which is placing enormous pressure on the capability of all facilities. An additional 136 dedicated adult ICU COVID-19 beds were made available, bringing the combined ICU/high care beds to 367,” said the department, as reported by Times Live.

“As at December 18 there were 2,032 total COVID-19 patients in hospital of which 287 were in ICU/high care. However, the additional capacity made available requires resources to directed away from other services, meaning less capability for a particular health service to be rendered.

“In addition, the 4,443 acute beds — excluding maternity, paediatric, neonatal, psychiatry beds, Red Cross, Mowbray and the TB hospitals — across the province are also taking strain with metro hospitals operating at 78% and rural hospitals at 89%. The various bed totals change daily and are monitored by the management teams at hospitals.”

As countries around the world are celebrating the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, South Africans are not so optimistic about whether it will be effectively distributed, considering that the government has already missed the payment deadline for the deposit for enough vaccinations to immunise just 10% of the country’s population. It would appear that the COVID-19 could remain as a healthcare crisis in SA for quite some time, much like tuberculosis and HIV have over the last few decades.

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