Rising Covid-19 load and protests put Free State hospitals under strain

Iavan Pijoos Journalist
By midday on Tuesday, Mediclinic Bloemfontein had 81 Covid-19 patients and only two beds available in the ward. File photo.
By midday on Tuesday, Mediclinic Bloemfontein had 81 Covid-19 patients and only two beds available in the ward. File photo.
Image: Supplied

Hospitals and healthcare workers face a twin onslaught as Covid-19 infections and deaths increase in the Free State and a violent service delivery protest causes major disruptions in Mangaung.

The province had 5,811 active cases and recorded 30 additional Covid-19 related deaths on Monday.

Mediclinic Bloemfontein private hospital alone had 81 Covid-19 patients and only two beds available in the ward at midday on Tuesday. Hospital spokesperson Barbara Steenkamp said there were no ICU beds available.

“It changes by the minute, we might not have beds available now but have beds available later,” she said.

Infectious disease specialist at the hospital Dr Cloete Jansen van Vuuren said hospitals in the province were under extreme pressure with the rise in the number of infections. Some patients were turned away due to limited capacity at hospitals in the province, he said.

Van Vuuren said the health sector suffered another blow when violent service delivery protests erupted on Monday.

“A huge bulk of the staff couldn’t come to work at both the state and private hospitals. This created a huge crisis because you sit with wards packed to capacity without any night shift staff.”

Van Vuuren said some patients who had been in hospital for weeks and were struggling to get off oxygen were being sent home with “concentrated oxygen” and not tanks but this was not to make space for more patients, he added.

“These are patients who had been in hospital for three to six weeks who are stable but we can’t get them off the oxygen. We send them home with an oxygen concentrator.”

Protests also disrupted the first day of the phase 2 Covid-19 vaccine rollout for the elderly on Monday.

Prof Theo Neethling from the University of the Free State’s department of political studies and governance described Monday as “a tough day in Mangaung”.

Provincial health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi told TimesLIVE on Monday evening that a decision had been taken to move vials of vaccine earmarked for Boikhuco Old Age Home to another site due to the protests.

Day one of the rollout saw 264 people vaccinated in the province.

Mvambi said there was “no wastage of the vaccine” and that the department had prepared 97 sites that they had earmarked for rolling out the vaccine until the end of June.

Mvambi said on Tuesday that government hospitals including Pelonomi, National and Universitas were taking strain with the rise in infection numbers. But he was unable to access the latest figures from hospitals due to the protest and staff not being at work.

Several businesses and tertiary institutions were also forced to close their doors because of the protests, which claimed the life of a 15-year-old boy on Monday.

On Tuesday the department of employment and labour said the Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Zastron labour centres were closed. Interstate Bus lines suspended services in Bloemfontein, Thaba Nchu, Botshabelo, Soutpan and Brandfort.

The Central University of Technology said students and staff were severely affected by the unavailability of transport to its Bloemfontein campus and said the campus would be closed on Tuesday.

Builders Warehouse and the CCMA offices also said they would be closing their doors.

Police confirmed 13 shops owned by foreign nationals were looted and 19 people were arrested for public violence and looting.

“The situation is quiet but tense compared to yesterday. There are still police deployments in the areas of Mangaung and Botshabelo,” spokesperson Brig Motantsi Makhele said.


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