We’re ready to deal with spike in infections, says Mkhize

Health minister Zweli Mkhize, along with premier Oscar Mabuyane attended the official opening and handover of the Rev. Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field hospital in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday. Pictured here: Medical staff ready for Covid-19 patients to be treated at the field hospital. Picture Werner Hills
Health minister Zweli Mkhize, along with premier Oscar Mabuyane attended the official opening and handover of the Rev. Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field hospital in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday. Pictured here: Medical staff ready for Covid-19 patients to be treated at the field hospital. Picture Werner Hills
Image: Werner Hills

Health minister Zweli Mkhize is sending additional reinforcements to the Eastern Cape to strengthen the health department’s efforts in fighting Covid-19.

Mkhize made the announcement while speaking at the official handover of VWSA’s temporary field hospital in Korsten on Tuesday.

The Eastern Cape is gearing up for a Covid-19 onslaught with the 3,300-bed field hospital and negotiations already under way to commandeer private hospitals.

The peak of the virus is expected in October and fears are that the demand for hospital beds will outstrip supply by early to middle next month. But Mkhize reiterated yesterday that while the government was doing all it could to fight the pandemic, a lot of the responsibility remained in the hands of residents.

He said as the total number of Covid-19 cases had passed the 100,000 mark, with a rapid rise in the number of daily cases, just four months ago the coronavirus was a foreign concept to most South Africans.

“Now it is here and has come with many surprises and many lessons that we might never have imagined we would have to learn so quickly and so decidedly.

“Some have even publicly debated whether this increase in numbers means that there is a failure by the government to effectively respond to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Today, I want to publicly and boldly dispel such notions,” Mkhize said.

“It is my humble view thatthe government has thus far done [its] very best to mount an effective response to Covid-19 in the containment programme and, in some instances, did something that some of the more advanced countries may not have been able to do.”

Mkhize said the government did not have a perfect strategy to deal with the pandemic but it was ready to deal with a spike in infections.

“We have said that we will be ready to deal with a large number of the cases that will be coming through, and today is part of the demonstration of our effort in that direction,” he said.

The country had seen a spike in infections since the easing of the lockdown regulations, which, he said, could not be in place forever.    

“We needed to strike a balance between saving lives and people’s livelihoods.”

Mkhize said a senior official from the department of health would be deployed to the province to strengthen efforts to fight the virus.

The field hospital was named after medical doctor and health activist Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni, who thanked VWSA and the department of health for naming the facility after her.

VWSA chair and MD Thomas Schaefer said with the funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), the automotive giant had completed  phase one of equipping the facility, which now had the capacity to accommodate 1,485 patients, including high-acuity patients who required oxygenation.

Once the second and third phases were complete, in accordance with the department of health’s standard operating procedures for field hospitals, the facility could accommodate more than 3,300 patient beds.

Schaefer also said that R11m of the more than R100m funding received would be used to bolster the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) branch in Port Elizabeth, which is responsible for the majority of Covid-19 testing in the metro.

“The testing process in the metro needs to be optimised to enable tracing,” he said.

“This remains crucial as it will ultimately allow us to curb the spread of the virus.

“It is our hope that the support we offer to the NHLS will enable  it to perform its potentially life-saving duties more effectively.”

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane said VWSA had created yet another opportunity for the province to save lives and triumph against Covid-19.

He said VWSA’s investment came at the right time, as the province and the Nelson Mandela Bay metro were seeing a significant increase in the number of confirmed cases.

, On Monday, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the province was 16,895.

“This metro is our provincial epicentre, with over 2,500 active cases, therefore this field hospital is at the right place,” Mabuyane said.

Bay acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye committed that the municipality would provide the facility with uninterrupted basic services, security, backup power, critical maintenance and the servicing supporting infrastructure.

Before stepping down from the podium, Mkhize paid tribute to health workers and people who had succumbed to the virus as a result of underlying health conditions.  

“This cruelty that we’ve witnessed has cut across racial, sexual and ethnic lines,” he said.

“It has targeted the rich, poor, and undermined the phenomenon of life as we know it.”

He said those who died were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and other family members, “loved ones” who had plans for their future.

At the official handover of the Bay field hospital are, from left, the Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni, East Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, health minister Zweli Mkhize and VWSA managing director Thomas Schaefer
At the official handover of the Bay field hospital are, from left, the Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni, East Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane, health minister Zweli Mkhize and VWSA managing director Thomas Schaefer
Image: WERNER HILLS

Health minister Zweli Mkhize is sending additional reinforcements to the Eastern Cape to strengthen the health department’s efforts in fighting Covid-19.

Mkhize made the announcement while speaking at the official handover of VWSA’s temporary field hospital in Korsten on Tuesday.

The Eastern Cape is gearing up for a Covid-19 onslaught with the 3,300-bed field hospital and negotiations already under way to commandeer private hospitals.

The peak of the virus is expected in October and fears are that the demand for hospital beds will outstrip supply by early to mid-July.

But Mkhize reiterated on Tuesday that while the government was doing all it could to fight the pandemic, a lot of the responsibility remained in the hands of residents.

He said as the total number of Covid-19 cases had passed the 100,000 mark, with a rapid rise in the number of daily cases, just four months ago the coronavirus was a foreign concept to most South Africans.

“Now it is here and has come with many surprises and many lessons that we might never have imagined we would have to learn so quickly and so decidedly.

“Some have even publicly debated whether this increase in numbers means that there is a failure by the government to effectively respond to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Today, I want to publicly and boldly dispel such notions,” Mkhize said.

“It is my humble view that the government has thus far done [its] very best to mount an effective response to Covid-19 in the containment programme and, in some instances, did something that some of the more advanced countries may not have been able to do.”

Mkhize said the government did not have a perfect strategy to deal with the pandemic but it was ready to deal with a spike in infections.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.