Covid-19 surge and trauma patients put Western Cape hospitals under 'severe strain'

Western Cape health facilities are under pressure as more Covid-19 patients require hospitalisation. File photo.
Western Cape health facilities are under pressure as more Covid-19 patients require hospitalisation. File photo.
Image: Aron Hyman

Hospitals across the Western Cape were under “severe pressure” on Sunday due to a sharp increase in patients with severe Covid-19.

The provincial health department said in a statement that a steep increase in non Covid-19 trauma cases was also putting additional strain on its hospitals. ICU beds at public hospitals in the province were technically full.

“The 231 adult ICU/high care beds across hospitals are currently fluctuating between 80-100% total capacity daily [technically full] which is placing enormous pressure on the capability of all facilities. An additional 136 dedicated adult ICU Covid-19 beds were made available, bringing the combined ICU/high care beds to 367,” said the department.

“As at December 18 there were 2,032 total Covid-19 patients in hospital of which 287 were in ICU/high care. However, the additional capacity made available requires resources to directed away from other services, meaning less capability for a particular health service to be rendered.

“In addition, the 4,443 acute beds — excluding maternity, paediatric, neonatal, psychiatry beds, Red Cross, Mowbray and the TB hospitals — across the province are also taking strain with metro hospitals operating at 78% and rural hospitals at 89%. The various bed totals change daily and are monitored by the management teams at hospitals.”

The department warned that protracted pressure on health facilities could result in delays in hospital admissions and other services.

“The protracted pressure on scarce health resources may result in possible delayed admission to hospital or the possibility that certain service packages cannot be rendered.”

“To assist the teams the department has initiated ethics committees to support the clinical decision-making. Both clinical decision-making and access to certain care packages will, by necessity, be different to those experienced in normal day-to-day services — for both Covid-19 and non Covid-19 patients.

“These are unprecedented times globally and require us to take unprecedented actions to support the most vulnerable patients. Senior management fully supports clinicians in this very difficult time as their decisions are guided by equity, fairness, dignity, and engagement. To further support our teams and the demand for services, an additional 829 dedicated Covid beds have been made available.”

The department said it relied on agencies, volunteers and bursary holders, extra doctors and the redeployment of internal staff to boost its capacity. The department urged the public play its role to reduce infections

“Staff safety is given the highest priority during this high-pressure period. No effort is spared to ensure safety protocols are adhered to. We have also staggered leave arrangements to try to ensure that staff can have some rest and time with their families,” the statement reads.

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