Covid-19 peaks could overwhelm capabilities of health facilities: expert
The problem facing SA is preventing a surge in the number of Covid-19 infections which could overwhelm hospitals in Gauteng, a health and social security systems specialist has warned.
Speaking to SAFM on Wednesday, Prof Alex van den Heever of the Wits School of Governance said the number of Covid-19 infections in the second wave is higher than during the first surge last year.
“Our problem is preventing the peaks we are seeing. The peaks are higher than they were in the first surge.
“Gauteng’s peak could be significantly higher than it was in the first wave, and that would overwhelm the province’s hospitals,” Van den Heever said.
He said another problem facing the public health sector was a loss of health care capacity.
He said medical personnel often contract Covid-19 while working.
“They must self-isolate and are off work for a period even if they do not develop severe illness. That remains a perpetual problem.
“This coincides with the period where government chose to freeze posts in many areas of the public health system,” Van den Heever said.
He said government reduced the size of the workforce at a time when the country needed a lot of additional nurses and doctors.
When asked where officials should focus their efforts on during the second wave of infections, Van den Heever said the use of field hospitals was tested during the first waves in Cape Town and Nasrec in Gauteng.
“They set up additional beds and made sure oxygen was supplied to them within the conventional hospital system.”
Van den Heever said this would seem to be a better route.
“A lot of capacity was created. In the private sector, they also learnt how to expand capability quite quickly. If we continue to see surges of this kind, they will exceed the capability of any level of preparation.”