Gauteng Premier David Makhura promised that 2000 new beds would be built at existing hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.
These beds were all supposed to be ready for an expected surge in August/September, but by this time the first surge of cases was on the way down.
According to the latest figures there are currently 2549 COVID-19 patients in Gauteng hospitals, both public and private. At the peak of the surge in July there were 7500 COVID-19 patients, so the extra 2000 beds should significantly ease the strain if they are properly staffed and equipped.
Reconfiguration has added 282 general beds at the Discoverers, Tembisa, Lenasia South, and George Mukhari hospitals, and 254 more High Care/ICU beds at the Tembisa, Helen Joseph, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg, Chris Hani Baragwanath, Tshwane District and Kopanong hospitals. Another 176 ICU beds were supposed to be completed at the Anglo Ashanti Hospital in Carletonville.
1400 completely new High Care/ICU beds were promised at the following hospitals:
Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital – 500
Jubilee Hospital – 300
George Mukhari Hospital – 300
Kopanong Hospital – 300
In addition to this, there are 1000 low-level beds at the NASREC field hospital which has been largely empty, and fewer than 10% of its beds were used at any one time. The poorly-drafted 6 month contract for this facility ends on 31 January next year and more than R200 million has been paid for hundreds of empty beds. A more rational and cost-effective contract is needed for any beds that may be needed there after January.
Mistakes have been made with wasteful spending on beds that may not be used fully because of their location and lack of staff – this is particularly the case with the Anglo Gold Hospital which was renovated at the exorbitant budgeted cost of R589 million.
The big challenge is proper staffing, equipment and oxygen supplies for all the extra beds.
I welcome the 246 extra staff that will start work in January at the Chris Hani Hospital, and I hope the other hospitals have enough staff to cope with the expected surge of COVID-19 cases next year.
I have requested the Chairperson of the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee for an urgent meeting to get a full briefing from the Gauteng Health Department on their state of readiness for the surge to come.
We need to ensure that everything is done to ensure we have enough hospital staff with sufficient resources, including decent Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).