The Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban has been temporarily shut down by KwaZulu-Natal’s Health Department, following an outbreak of more than 60 confirmed cases of Covid-19 linked to the private hospital.
This was confirmed by provincial health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, in a briefing together with KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala on Wednesday evening. It follows national Health Minister Zweli Mkhize warning on Tuesday that further parts of the hospital would close for disinfection.
Mkhize, who released a brief update late on Wednesday night stating that the number of Covid-19 deaths in South Africa had risen by five to 18 and confirmed cases stood 1 845, did not make further mention of the situation at St Augustine’s Hospital.
There are conflicting reports in terms of the number of staff and patients at the hospital who have tested positive for Covid-19. Both Mkhize and Simelane-Zulu have said that 66 confirmed cases are linked to the hospital, including 48 staff.
However, in a statement released by Netcare earlier on Wednesday, the group’s CEO Dr Richard Friedland said 47 of the hospital’s staff had tested positive and 15 current patients were being treated for Covid-19. A staff member and a patient within these numbers had recovered and have since tested negative.
Friedland also confirmed that the hospital had four deaths associated to the virus since South Africa’s first case was reported in KwaZulu-Natal on March 5. However, during her address on Wednesday night, Simelane-Zulu said five Covid-19 deaths are linked to the hospital.
She said following the closure of parts of St Augustine’s Hospital last week, including its trauma and admissions units, the provincial department had decided to “close down the whole hospital indefinitely.”
The closure of the hospital, however, is yet to be confirmed by JSE-listed Netcare. The company is South Africa’s largest private hospital group and St Augustine’s is Netcare’s largest medical campus in the country.
Moneyweb understands that most patients at the hospital are now being moved to nearby Netcare and other private hospitals in Durban, barring the Covid-19 positive patients who will remain at a quarantined ward at the hospital.
According to Friedland, there are 1 982 people working on the campus of Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital, inclusive of healthcare workers, nurses, contractors and doctors.
“More than half of these individuals have already been swabbed. Thus far, a total of 504 people have tested negative and we are awaiting the results of a further 318 people.
“These results are reported on a daily basis to the head of the KZN Department of Health’s Covid-19 task team.”
Meanwhile, with South Africa’s death toll from Covid-19 now standing at 18, half of these people were in KwaZulu-Natal. Of the province’s nine confirmed deaths, eight were people aged over 60.
Mkhize’s latest update shows that Gauteng now has 782 confirmed cases of Covid-19, followed by the Western Cape with 495 cases; KwaZulu-Natal with 354 cases; and Free State with 88 cases.
The Eastern Cape province now has 45 confirmed cases, while Limpopo and Mpumalanga have 21 cases each; North West 15; and the Northern Cape 13. The 1 845 Covid-19 cases in South Africa were confirmed from 63 776 tests conducted. Eleven cases are ‘unallocated’ currently.
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