ICU and high care beds, oxygen and ventilators may not always be available: Netcare CEO

Yasantha Naidoo Durban bureau chief
Netcare CEO Richard Friedland says the hospital group is having to readjust its operation to deal with the Covid-19 second wave.
Netcare CEO Richard Friedland says the hospital group is having to readjust its operation to deal with the Covid-19 second wave.
Image: Martin Rhodes

Netcare, one of the country’s largest private health-care providers, has said that the surge in Covid-19 infections, particularly in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, has placed a “significant and unprecedented demand” on the hospital group's facilities.

In a statement on Monday, Dr Richard Friedland, CEO of Netcare, said in these four provinces, the number of patients admitted to hospital far exceeds what was experienced in the first wave of the pandemic.

“While we will always endeavour to provide care to patients arriving at our facilities, the increased demand will require us to make decisions regarding access to certain treatment modalities. All these decisions will be based on recognised international guidelines of triage [allocation of treatment based on priority] and transition of care,” said Friedland.

He said that while clinical, nursing and management teams were committed to providing the best care available to all patients, “it may not, in circumstances where the demand exceeds or overwhelms the capacity, be able to provide all treatment options that would be available in normal, non-pandemic circumstances”.

“Practically, this may mean that levels of care such as ICU and high care, ventilators or certain oxygen delivery modalities may not be available to all patients. Where possible, we will seek to transfer patients, once stabilised, to one of our other hospitals, should they have capacity.

“Our clinicians will make all of these decisions based on the availability of resources and their best clinical judgement. We fully support them in this difficult task and complex decision-making process.”

Friedland said the hospital group was “extremely concerned about the new surge in infections” and that it was constantly reviewing  and evaluating its strategy and operations.

“We expect this demand to continue in Limpopo and the Western Cape for at least the next two weeks, but unfortunately to increase in KZN over the same period,” he noted.

“Fortunately, we have seen a reduction in cases in the Eastern Cape. We however remain extremely concerned about Gauteng, which is already beginning to surge, and we are expecting a dramatic increase in cases as holidaymakers return to the province in early January.” 

Friedland said they had adequate supplies of the appropriate drugs and consumables, as well as personal protective equipment to last throughout the second wave.

“We have implemented strict infection prevention and control policies and principles. We demand fastidious adherence to these standard operating procedures, which are at all times aligned to the guidelines and protocols issued by the World Health Organisation [WHO] and the national department of health.

“During these uncertain and difficult times, we appreciate the public’s patience and understanding, and I want to assure you we are working as hard as possible on the front line to provide the best and safest care we can to our patients during this challenging time.”

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