Thami Kwazi
Lifestyle Print Editor
4 minute read
28 Aug 2020
7:13 pm

Netcare reopens surgical wings

Thami Kwazi

The national hospital group has taken the decision to resume all elective surgical procedures, but there will be some additional safety measures in place.

Netcare Kingsway Hospital, south of Durban. Picture: Supplied

All categories of elective surgeries, from knee replacements and hysterectomies to tonsillectomies and cataract removals, have resumed at Netcare hospitals and day hospitals.

The decision on whether to proceed with a specific surgical procedure is, as always, solely that of the treating surgeon and the patient.

Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, said: “This decision was taken due to many patients having neglected to manage their chronic health conditions appropriately or to seek medical assistance for acute conditions during lockdown, even after the lockdown restrictions were relaxed [and] even though South African hospitals continued to provide urgent surgery based on the ‘medically necessary, time-sensitive procedures’ decision-making framework throughout the lockdown. Generally due to their concerns about the safety of seeking care from doctors and healthcare facilities, but this can, however, have avoidable, long-term health consequences for them.”

There has been a marked reduction in patients confirmed with or under investigation for Covid-19 in Netcare hospitals.

However, he says, Netcare hospitals remain vigilant and are maintaining all the precautionary measures that were put in place earlier “to ensure the safest possible environment for our patients and healthcare workers”.

“At the same time, we are agile and adaptive in our approach, as can be seen with the progressive relaxation of visitation opportunities of patients for family and friends, and other appropriate protocols.”

During the previous month, at what appeared to be the height of the pandemic, patient admittance capacity and bed space seem to be an issue. This has drastically decreased and bed space has been catered for, he says.

“We currently have the capacity in our hospitals for both Covid-19 and other patients in all of the separate zones in our critical-care units and general wards.

“Should there be a capacity constraint in a specific hospital at a certain time, this has also taken into consideration in determining which surgeries should be given priority.”

In that event, management at Netcare hospitals would continue to work closely with the Covid-19 clinical committee and specifically the surgical sub-committee at their hospital to ensure the appropriate application of the scheduling protocols.

Given that the country is still experiencing Covid-19, all necessary provisions for patient safety are being met.

Pertaining specifically to the admittance of elective surgery candidates, Du Plessis elaborates: “We certainly have the capacity to admit patients for elective surgery.

“The hospitals monitor and update their space daily to ensure the most effective use of our resources.”

Even when Covid-19 cases surged, Du Plessis says, their hospitals had the capacity for treating both coronavirus-infected and other patients.

Some measures are being taken to ensure surgical patients don’t become infected.

These include maintaining comprehensive precautionary measures which have been put in place to minimise the risk of the virus spreading into and within the facilities, to ensure the safest possible environment for both patients and healthcare workers.

To minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading into or within Netcare hospitals, patients are still required to test for the disease caused by the coronavirus at least 72 hours before their planned admission, to self-quarantine from the time of testing to admission and to present their results on the day of their planned admission, when they will again be tested.

Separate zones for patients who are Covid-19 negative, under investigation or positive are strictly maintained to ensure the safety of patients as well as healthcare workers.

Additional measures include:

Daily screening and temperature checks of all people who want to enter the facilities, including healthcare and support workers and those with doctor consultations or are undergoing diagnostic investigations.

An online screening system to minimise unnecessary queuing for screening.

Patients being admitted to provide Covid-19 test results, so they are accommodated and cared for in the appropriate zones.

Physical distancing measures.

Regular deep cleaning, disinfection and decontamination of all facilities, including through the deployment of ultraviolet robots, which have proved effective in destroying viruses, bacteria and fungal spores in healthcare facilities.

The provision of appropriate personal protective equipment to staff and patients.

Ongoing retraining of staff on safety measures.

Daily talks with staff on a range of topics related to Covid-19

The hospitals have also provided staff members with cloth masks to wear outside of work.

As lockdown restrictions were relaxed to Levels 3 and 2, people were increasingly socialising, going to public facilities to shop, exercising or dining out, and many have returned to their places of work. However, in many cases, they are still hesitant to access hospital care even when they need it.

Du Plessis concludes that realistically – and people may not realise it – Netcare and other hospitals with appropriate Covid-19 precautionary measures in place are probably among the safer public places.

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