Virologist calls for extra deployment of health workers in Gauteng

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Virologist, Professor Shabir Madhi, has urged the Gauteng Health Department to deploy more human resources to help fight the COVID-19 third wave in the province.

The number of cases in Gauteng continues to soar with it now accounting for two-thirds of all the active cases in the country.

More than 5 000 people are currently being treated in the province’s hospitals, which is putting high pressure on available resources.

Overnight, South Africa reported 13 155 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of infections to 1 823 319. There have been 112 new COVID-19-related deaths, pushing the national death toll to 58 702.

Gauteng accounts for 66% of the more than new cases recorded in the last 24-hour reporting cycle.

Madhi says staff capacity at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital’s COVID-19 section should be added. He says the facility in Soweto has state of the art beds, but with few doctors and nurses.

“Those are fantastic facilities. I have and opportunity of visiting two of them. They really got state of the art equipment but they don’t have personnel. You can not plan to build a facility without having a plan in place to actually have personnel so the patients can be cleared out of the facility, otherwise it becomes a white elephant,” he warns.

Madhi warns that in the next two weeks, more patients in Gauteng are going to need hospital treatment due the coronavirus numbers that keep on rising.

“Unfortunately in the next two weeks we are going to see even further pressure on our facilities which I may be essential that those COVID facilities, ABT facilities be operationalised today. Even if other facilities will be running at ninety per cent capacity, you need to be ready when the third wave really strike,” he says.

‘GP deaths up by 80% week on week’

Madhi’s remarks come amid revelations that the number of people dying from COVID-19 in Gauteng has increased 80% week on week.

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Senior Researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Ridhwaan Suliman, says the province was to some extent spared during the first and second waves and this may have led to lower immunity in the province ahead of the third wave.

Dr Suliman says new admissions in Gauteng hospitals last week were up by 36% compared to the previous week.

He also warns that the province could face even greater pressure as the third wave intensifies.

“I think of concern what we are currently seeing is a significant rise in the number of reported deaths in Gauteng. It is accounting for more than half of the total number of reported deaths reported nationally. So in Gauteng, we’ve reported 62 new deaths per day on average over the last week and that figure has increased 80 percent week on week,” adds Suliman.

The Gauteng government has acknowledged that some of the province’s health facilities are not properly utilised to cope with the surge in COVID-19 hospitalisations.

“We do indeed face pressure but at the same time we do have capacity that was created since the start of the response to COVID-19 pandemic and most of that capacity is in the existing hospitals. These are not actually temporary structures and most of them are not optimally used. We got to make sure that we bring them to full use,” says Gauteng Government Spokesperson, Thabo Masebe.

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