The high rate of Covid-19 infections among health workers at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital is threatening to collapse services at the Mdantsane facility.
So far 122 workers, including 85 nurses and doctors, have tested positive, removing them from work for 14 days.
This is the picture that was painted by hospital CEO Sicelo Msi to DA MP Siviwe Gwarube and MPL Jane Cowley during their oversight visit on Monday.
Msi said out of 35 ICU nurses, 20 had tested positive for the virus as of Monday.
The hospital was increasing its ICU bed capacity and would add 12 more, he said, adding beds in some wards were being converted to accommodate ventilator machines, should the demand increase with the predicted peak of infections.
The increased demand for service due to closure of clinics near CMH overstretched the existing health workforce, he said.
Msi told the DA leaders that there was an inadequate medical equipment for the increased demand and limited surgical consumables.
However, he said there were a number of prevention and control measures put in place to manage the pandemic.
“There is hand sanitiser for all people entering the hospital buildings. We have a daily staff screening, screening of all patients entering the hospital, and flu vaccination of all health workers to minimise health risk,” he said, adding the decision to stop visitation had helped to slow down the rate of infection.
After walking around the hospital, Gwarube said they were concerned with the state of affairs at CMH.
“It’s very deeply concerning that 20 of the 35 people who are at the ICU unit have tested positive because that means they have now been taken out of service.
“There are only two ICU beds dedicated for Covid patients. I know that there will now be a facility opening that will add 12 beds.
“But the fact that, four months into the outbreak of this pandemic, a regional hospital like CMH has only two ICU beds is very concerning.”
She said CMH was symptomatic of the broader state of the Eastern Cape health system.
“There are a number of positives we can see here because this team does want to manage, particularly the staff morale, and the issues around PPE.
“But it is still being hampered by the inability of the National Health Laboratory Services to process tests as quickly as possible and it prevents the hospital from being able to manage beds accordingly.”
Cowley blasted the provincial health department.
“The provincial government definitely underestimated Covid-19, and overestimated its ability to deal with and manage the pandemic with the structures and infrastructure they have in place.”