Netcare today confirmed that it has under 3 000 COVID-19 positive patients in its hospitals countrywide. In order to cope with the demand, the Group has in the past fortnight opened three temporary Clinical Decision Units to further augment capacity in Limpopo, North West and Tshwane for COVID-19 emergency patients.
“As part of our disaster management planning, Netcare commissioned three temporary Clinical Decision Units [CDUs] that can accommodate an additional 116 patients,” says Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare. A further 15 CDUs have been established within our other hospitals in Gauteng, where existing general wards have been converted into CDUs, comprising 214 beds.
The temporary CDUs were erected at Netcare Montana Hospital in Pretoria, Netcare Ferncrest Hospital in Rustenburg, and Netcare Pholoso Hospital in Polokwane to augment these hospitals’ existing capacity.
“So far our experience of the second wave suggests that the need for additional capacity in a particular area can arise sharply and suddenly. These temporary facilities are extremely helpful in easing the burden on the emergency departments at hospitals, as patients can be stabilised in these CDUs before they are admitted for hospitalisation, if required.
“Netcare hospitals in the Eastern Cape continue to see a decline in COVID-19 admissions, and in the Western Cape the numbers appear to be stabilising. In KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Gauteng we are still seeing very high numbers of patients admitted with COVID-19. We hope that we have reached a peak and that we will start to see the numbers in these areas plateau soon,” he says.
Netcare has been able to rapidly set up temporary Clinical Decision Units where the need was identified, drawing on previous experience in setting up and operating field hospitals in response to international disasters and for major events. The field hospitals are sanctioned by the respective provincial Departments of Health (DoH), and are fully compliant with the requirements for facilities of this type.
“The aim of Clinical Decision Units is to make the most efficient use of available resources to help the greatest possible number of people in these extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances. So far the CDUs have assisted a combined total of nearly 400 patients since opening during the second week of January.
Critical care units remain under pressure
“While these temporary facilities are helpful in coping with a surge of COVID-19 emergency admissions, critical care units in many of our hospitals remain under enormous pressure even though we have increased the capacity of these highly specialised units.
“The disease burden from before the pandemic has not disappeared, and in fact we have unfortunately noted that people with pre-existing health conditions who have been avoiding healthcare due to fear of COVID-19 are now requiring higher levels of care than would ordinarily have been expected.
“Although the number of COVID-19 admissions or positive test results appear to be plateauing, or showing early hopeful signs of slowing down in some areas, it is important to understand that we are far from being out of the woods yet,” Dr Friedland says.
“The need for us to set up temporary CDUs even though we have already maximised hospital capacity and resources in preparation for this second wave underlines the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation. Every person has an individual and collective responsibility to help prevent the spread of the virus, which continues to take an enormous human toll.”
Appreciation for healthcare heroes
“Our healthcare workers and the doctors on the frontline are doing a phenomenal job. Nurses and doctors, administrative staff, porters, caterers and everyone involved in caring for our patients have put in a remarkable effort over the past 11 months, but understandably they are exhausted. We are immensely grateful that they continue to do their very best, they are real heroes.
“Each one of us can demonstrate our appreciation for their contribution by redoubling our efforts to prevent the spread of this unrelenting virus and reduce pressure on the healthcare system by bringing COVID-19 transmissions down,” Dr Friedland says.
Optimisation of resources
“Additional staffing, oxygen supply and ventilators, as well as the conversion of more hospital beds to COVID-19 red zones where needed, have enabled us to significantly ramp up the capacity for the second wave.
“We have also maximised capacity by suspending non-urgent elective surgical and medical admissions to our hospitals since just before Christmas last year. However, medically necessary, time sensitive (MeNTS) surgeries are continuing in cases where postponement could result in patients’ outcomes or quality of life being significantly altered.
Resumption of non-urgent elective surgery in our hospitals will be dependent on the course of the pandemic, and may be done in stages, i.e. at different times in different regions, as COVID-19 cases in certain regions decrease.
Netcare Family Connect Line
On Monday of this week, Netcare launched a dedicated support line to keep next-of-kin informed on the status of their loved ones who have been hospitalised with COVID-19 and, where possible, to facilitate direct communication between patients and their families.
“We have already recruited and deployed 30 social workers who, together with patient liaison officers and social workers already working in our hospitals are supporting patients and their families in non-clinical patient liaison roles, which enables healthcare workers to focus solely on their clinical and nursing duties.”
The number for the Netcare Family Connect Line is 0800 111 266. It is operational on weekdays from 08:00 to 18:00 and weekends from 08:00 to 17:00.
This service makes it possible for families to engage with dedicated personnel, mainly social workers deployed for this purpose, who will provide them with daily feedback on the status of their loved ones admitted with COVID-19 to any Netcare hospital countrywide.
Issued by: MNA on behalf of Netcare
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Estene Lotriet-Vorster
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