Netcare patient load in Gauteng is 100% more than Covid-19 first wave
Capacity boosted ahead of expected surge in coastal provinces: hospital group
The virulence of the Delta strain of Covid-19 has been spelled out by the Netcare hospital group.
CEO Dr Richard Friedland said on Wednesday the surge in Covid-19 cases and high admissions to hospitals in Gauteng are directly linked to the emergence of the Delta variant in SA.
“Initial modelling suggested Gauteng would experience a third wave which would be lower than the second wave but may last longer, in other words the ‘lower for longer scenario’. This appeared to be the case until the first week of June, when the daily number of positive cases started to break the trend, rising exponentially on June 15.
“Since then, it has been increasing rapidly, far exceeding the peak of both the first and second waves in Gauteng.”
Friedland said the Delta variant was responsible for 53% of cases sampled in early June and 75% towards the end of June.
“The Delta variant is approximately 50% to 60% more transmissible than the Beta variant which was responsible for the second wave in SA. This explains the mounting surge in cases and admissions to hospitals.”
He said Netcare is treating more than 2,600 Covid-19 patients across its hospitals in Gauteng. “This is 45% higher than the 1,792 patients we had at the peak of the second wave, and almost 100% higher than the 1,377 patients admitted during the peak of the first wave in Gauteng.
“It also explains why we have seen entire families, schoolchildren and younger people testing positive, and why we have seen the admission of patients in their 20s and 30s affected by the coronavirus.”
The Delta variant has been detected in at least five provinces and is now the dominant strain in the country.
While welcoming the government’s decision to move SA to an adjusted level 4 lockdown, the hospital group remains concerned about the situation in densely populated Gauteng.
Given the Delta variant’s increased transmissibility, it is more important than ever to practise safe social distancing, pay fastidious attention to the wearing of masks and regular washing of hands, use sanitiser and avoid social gatherings, said Friedland.
Proof vaccines are effective
Vaccination has so far proved to be extremely effective in protecting frontline workers.Netcare CEO Dr Richard Friedland
In the absence of a completed vaccine rollout, South Africans must rely on the strictest possible non-pharmaceutical preventive measures.
Vaccination has so far proved to be extremely effective in protecting frontline workers, said Friedland.
Of the more than 33,000 Netcare frontline workers vaccinated, he said only 206 (or 0.6%) have experienced a breakthrough infection and only seven required hospitalisation.
The country’s frontline workers have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Bracing for coastal surge
Friedland said Netcare is making plans to deal with an expected surge in coastal areas.
“We have already started scaling down on non-urgent surgery and medical admissions in our coastal hospitals, and some have suspended such surgery to rapidly create capacity for the expected increase in Covid-19 patient numbers. To free beds for Covid-19 patients, only medically necessary, time-sensitive surgeries will continue, as well as emergency admission of non-Covid-19 patients.”
Plans are also in place to convert Medicross day theatres and other facilities to accommodate Covid-19 patients if needed.
Netcare has secured more than 1,000 more mobile oxygen concentrators and another 100 ventilators. This includes 40 transport ventilators, which can be used by emergency medical services personnel when transporting patients who need oxygen.