A shortage of specialist nurses and doctors in KwaZulu-Natal has rendered the province unable to increase critical and high care beds for Covid-19 patients.
Inadequate oxygen supply due to a limited capacity for bulk storage, inadequate supply of oxygen cylinders and facility infrastructure is also adding strain on the province’s hospitals.
This emerged as KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu and officials briefed Parliament’s health committee on the province’s response to Covid-19 on Thursday.
Sandile Tshabalala, head of the provincial health department, told MPs there was a prolonged turnaround time for results despite use of the Antigen Rapid Test in hospitals.
Tshabalala also highlighted:
- Increased morbidity and mortality due to delays in seeking medical care by Covid-19 positive patients;
- Demand for contact tracing and testing in hotspot districts has increased;
- Healthcare worker infections have surged resulting in shortage of staff in health facilities; and
- There had also been an increase in bed demand and transfer of patients to public health sector by private healthcare facilities.
Tshabalala said unlike in the first wave, when the public sector was overwhelmed and the private sector had enough capacity, the trend with the resurgence showed that the private sector was equally, if not more, inundated with patients.
“Since the resurgence, there is an agreement to share bed bureaus. Communication mechanisms include weekly meetings with [the] private sector and daily communication depending on the need.
“The challenges currently experienced are failure of GPs to follow referral pathways and private specialist communicating outside of their hospital groups,” he said.
The average number of cases in KwaZulu-Natal in the past seven days was 5,062 cases per day.
The Ethekwini metro municipality consistently recorded the highest number of new cases daily.
Tshabalala said the province had a total of 64,167 active cases of which 8% were isolated in public and private facilities.
He also said community health centres had, in total, 144 beds of which 43 had been repurposed as Covid-19 beds for both confirmed cases and patients under investigation.
“These beds will be used for holding sick patients, whilst waiting for transfer to the nearest hospital.
“In order to cope with this responsibility, CHCs have been provided with special equipment like CPAP Machines, high flow nasal oxygen and rapid tests,” Tshabalala said.