Netcare, the largest provider of private healthcare in South Africa, has warned that the situation around the Covid-19 coronavirus is extremely concerning, particularly as we approach the winter season in which approximately 19% of South Africans contract Influenza or the Flu virus.
The Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding, the South African healthcare sector remains constrained, given the country’s underlying macro-economic landscape, it said in a statement on Monday (30 March).
The group said that it has spent R150 million to enhance the readiness of its ICU/High Care facilities, including purchasing additional ventilators, ultraviolet light disinfection robots and specialised air filters to ensure appropriate disinfection measures.
It has also committed to the government to treat public patients suffering from Covid-19 in Netcare facilities on a not-for-profit, cost recovery basis.
Netcare noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has infected over 723,000 people globally resulting in more than 34,000 deaths. More than two billion people around the world are in some form of lockdown or self-isolation, it said.
Health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced on Sunday evening that South Africa has recorded a second death from coronavirus.
“It is with sadness that we announce the second death of a patient, who had tested positive for Covid-19. The 74-year-old male had been in ICU and ventilation in a private hospital in Ladysmith.
“He had travelled to Kruger National Park with his family and came back with flu-like symptoms. He was confirmed to be Covid-19 positive on 27 March 2020.
“It has been reported to us that the deceased patient had an underlying skin cancer condition (melanoma), which had already complicated. He presented with the following symptoms: respiratory distress, shortness of breath, cardiac failure, decreased saturation and his temperature was above 38 degrees,” said Mkhize.
The minister said the country now has 1,280 confirmed cases of Covid-19.
“In South Africa, the situation remains extremely concerning given the levels of population density in certain geographical areas,” said Netcare. A factor which is further exacerbated by the significant proportion of the population who are immune compromised.
“As we enter the winter season in which approximately 19% of South Africans contract Influenza or the Flu virus, the situation may worsen, it stressed.
Netcare said that based on its actuarial forecast models, the already constrained health system will struggle to cope with the looming, and significantly higher increase in the number of patients requiring hospitalisation and ICU care.
Netcare said it is fully supportive of the 21-day nationwide lockdown in order to ‘flatten the curve’ and lower the communal spread of Covid-19.
“However, our modelling suggests that, as has been experienced in other countries and depending on the effectiveness of the lockdown, it will require on-going evaluation to determine if the time period is sufficient to achieve its intended goals.”
The group said it has adopted an ‘abundance of caution’ approach to ensure that its healthcare workers and doctors remain protected throughout the pandemic. As a result, it has introduced appropriate measures, including relevant training of employees, as well as screening and isolating patients to contain the spread of Covid-19 across its entire network of facilities.
“Given the lockdown, all routine activities other than essential activities relating to Covid-19, have been stopped,” Netcare said.
It added that it has also suspended non-essential elective surgery, to ensure that asymptomatic Covid-19 positive patients are not operated on, thereby potentially placing other patients, healthcare workers and doctors at risk of acquiring the virus.