The KwaZulu-Natal Command Council is confident it has built enough capacity to handle the infection rate and death toll as the number of Covid-19 cases approaches its peak.
This comes as the private healthcare sector noted a surge in the demand for testing and more people being hospitalised.
In a message sent by Dr Peter Cole, the chief executive and managing partner at Lancet Laboratories asked that doctors stop referring patients who required retesting after 14 days.
“To assist us in maintaining good turnaround times, testing priorities are for health-care workers, hospital inpatients, pre-admission testing, symptomatic outpatients and high-risk patients with comorbidities. Please do not refer testing for low-risk contacts, return to work screening for non-health-care workers and those with less than eight days’ exposure,” he said.
Cole said the lab would provide further notifications when it had built up enough capacity to accept these referrals.
Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, said they were experiencing a surge in demand for Covid-19 patient treatment.
“For now, we have the capacity in our hospitals for Covid-19 and other patients in our critical care units and general wards, but we expect demand to escalate. We are continuously assessing the demand for hospitalisation of Covid-19 patients and persons under investigation (PUI) in order to manage resources effectively.”
Du Plessis said contingency plans were in place to ensure there was patient treatment in the event of a hospital outbreak or lack of capacity.
“Where a hospital experiences an unexpected staff shortfall, the facility may be temporarily placed ‘on divert’ for emergencies, in which case emergency medical services providers are notified and other hospitals in the area provide cover. Emergency medical care will always be provided and patients would be transported to and treated in another of our hospitals which have capacity.”
Charl van Loggerenberg, Life Healthcare’s general manager for emergency medicine, said they had seven hospitals in KZN with 1457 registered beds and were all ready and able to treat Covid-19 patients.
“In KZN, our hospitals are seeing increased numbers, but for now remain ready and able to admit PUIs and Covid-19-positive patients requiring hospitalisation.
“We have 132 Covid-19-positive patients admitted, of which 10 are in intensive care. But we are trying to acquire more beds available for the surge of cases,” he said.
Van Loggerenberg added that its provincial hospitals had also seen increased admissions of Covid-19-positive doctors and hospital staff.
Over the past three days, KZN recorded more than 1000 cases, with the virus spreading across the province’s 12 districts.
There were at least 12000 infections as of yesterday.
Provincial government spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said contingency plans for eventualities were in place.
He said quarantine and isolation sites, including designated hospitals, had been earmarked for all districts within the province.
For Durban, Mabaso said facilities such as the Exhibition Centre, Moses Mabhida Stadium and various hotels and B&Bs had been considered as isolation sites.
Other Covid-19 facilities in KZN were the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg, Clairwood Hospital and Richmond Hospital in the Midlands.
Mabaso said they worked with a task team of scientists and medical advisors who informed the steps to be taken.
There were also plans for intervention by the national government to assist provinces which may be overwhelmed by the infections.
With regard to mortuaries and burial spaces being overwhelmed, Mabaso said the government was not preparing for death and would intensify measures to avoid getting to that point.
“Our mortality rate so far does not indicate that we will have a situation where our mortuaries will be overwhelmed, and that is not what the government wants.
“The best way to defend is to attack; let’s fight the source of the virus, which is to adhere to all safety measures.
“We have seen other countries resorting to mass burial, which is something we do not foresee in our province,” Mabaso said.
Premier Sihle Zikalala was expected to outline the province’s plans and responses to the upsurge today.