South African hospitals overran by COVID-19 patients


SOUTH African hospitals are being overwhelmed by the ever-rising number of COVID-19 patients with some institutions forced to convert parking garages into wards.

Hospitals across South Africa – both in the private and public sector – are battling with patients in a country where over 1.2-million people have been infected and over 33 163 have died from the deadly virus.

In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, South Africa is currently on lockdown Level 3, in terms of which alcohol sales have been banned, public gathering outlawed, beaches closed and funerals restricted to 50 people.

In Gauteng, the commercial capital of SA, images of parking garages at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital (SBAH) being used as wards have been doing the rounds on social media. 

The Gauteng Department of Health said the  facility noted a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 patients since December 2020. 

This is the department’s full statement: 

“The increased number of patients are sicker and require critical care, with some arriving in groups and putting serious pressure on the facility. Some of the patients the hospital is receiving are coming from private facilities because of lack of space, while others are self- referred from other provinces such as North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

“Early last year the Gauteng Department of Health converted Tshwane District Hospital (TDH) into a strictly COVID-19 treating facility in partnership with SBAH transforming the two hospitals into complex. These efforts were done in order to increase COVID-19 designated beds within the complex. The complex is currently under pressure especially with regards to the patients that require specialist immediate attention and therefore can be treated in only certain hospitals, that are also overwhelmed.

“The SBAH Emergency Unit entrance has an area that has a roof, designed to handle disasters of especially patients in the emergency category Priority 3 (P3s), of which patients whose images are in the social media fall into. Gauteng Health – public and private –  has an ambulance diversion system, where upon ambulances get information on what services are under pressure in any of the hospitals. With non-COVID-19 patients that service get utilised but for COVID-19 patients all hospitals are inundated. COVID- 19 patients require immediate care. The hospital resolved that there will be no diversion of ambulances to other facilities, and no turning away of any patient as long as there is a space that a patient can be attended to fully so as to ensure more people are catered to.

“The facility is putting up two additional tents to accommodate this increase in the number of patients coming to the facility. This is one of the interventions by the complex to treat the rising number of COVID-19 patients. We are urging communities not to be complacent. The non-pharmaceutical interventions of wearing masks, good hand hygiene, sanitising, avoiding closed and crowded places remain central in preventing the further spread of COVID-19.”

Life Eugene Marais Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa
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