Health experts are cautiously optimistic that the Western Cape is starting to flatten its Covid-19 death rate.
One of the contributors to the lower death rate is the use of high-flow nasal oxygen for less severe patients, the use of which has been hailed by medical experts around the world.
So successful has the treatment been that the US government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided an additional $3.5 million (R59m) to support the National Department of Health’s (NDoH) oxygen supply demand.
In a statement released this week USAID said led by the National Department of Health (NDOH) it would work closely with South African oxygen manufacturers like Afrox (Pty) Ltd and Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions South Africa, to increase their production by as much as eight times to meet Covid-19 demand.
“As part of its support to the NDOH, USAID is estimating the supplies and equipment required as well as working with engineers to increase hospitals’ capacity for oxygen support to critical care and general ward beds.
“These efforts support NDOH’s Surge Capacity and Case Management Teams to ensure that ventilators and other forms of oxygen therapy work properly, including the previously announced support for high-flow nasal cannula devices (equipment used to treat less severe patients who may not require the use of a ventilator) and the US government-donation of up to 1000 ventilators,” read the statement.
Provincial head of Health Dr Keith Cloete said data – compared to that of Covid-19 projection models used – showed the Western Cape was seeing a flatter trajectory of Covid-19 related deaths and hospital admissions.
“The province’s mortality, hospital data and case data suggest a gentle easing in the metro,” said Cloete.
He said the province was well within its risk scenario planning. At present, Covid-19 case fatality rate is just below 3%, according to Cloete. Hospital admissions for Covid-19 have stabilised over the past 10 days across public and private sector hospitals and field hospitals have relieved pressure on acute hospitals significantly.
“We have not exceeded our capacity in our hospitals to cope with Covid-19 at this point in time for Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 activities.”
Critical-care bed occupancy had a maximum of 320 patients which is currently at 270-280 patients. Covid-19 admissions had a maximum of 1 900 patients, which is now at 1 600-1 700.
The Hospital of Hope, which has a bed capacity of 850, has admitted 1 069 patients as at July 14 with 751 discharged since its opening. The field hospital has since reported 58 deaths.
Brackengate R300 field hospital, with a bed capacity of 330, will be admitting its first patients on Monday.
Thusong Centre in Khayelitsha, with a bed capacity of 68, has admitted 198 patients with 138 discharged and 28 deaths occurring at the facility.
Sonstraal Hospital, with a bed capacity of 150, will become available this week with additional beds in rural areas.
“There was an expectation that the need for hospitalisations would increase quite significantly until the end of July. What we’re seeing in real terms over the last four to five weeks is a flattening of the hospitalisations in the public and private sector.”
“R250 million has been invested in health technology to equip health-care facilities with the appropriate equipment, some of which are high-flow nasal oxygen devices.
The province has more than 160 devices already in use at health facilities across the province. Cloete said 60% of the province’s available oxygen capacity was being utilised.
“High-flow nasal oxygen and dexamethasone has been introduced and is having an impact on mortality. It is early days for us and we are observing. We introduced the treatment and we obviously have to track over a period of time, but it would be fair to say that it does have an impact on in-hospital mortality.”
Assumptions made by Covid-19 projection models showing a higher uptake in hospitalisations and an acceleration in deaths might be due to factors such as the susceptibility of the population to Covid-19.
Premier Alan Winde said, “Our health system is managing and we are starting to see a slight easing, which is really good news for us. It shows that the work that has gone in over the last 110 days has been unbelievable and really has created that platform that puts us into that position now and that’s due to good management and that’s good to see.”
The province has recorded 14 241 active cases of Covid-19, 82 264 confirmed cases and 65 530 recoveries made as of 1pm yesterday. Around 2 493 people have since died because of the virus.
“It’s too early to say for certain but we are cautiously optimistic that we are seeing a slight reduction in hospital admissions,” said Melomed Group marketing manager Shameema Adams.