The Covid-19 temporary hospital being set up at the Cape Town International Convention Centre is expected to be ready to admit patients as early as the first week of June, Western Cape head of emergency medicine Lee Wallis revealed.
Wallis, who addressed the media along with Western Cape premier Alan Winde, health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo and head of the provincial health department Keith Cloete on Thursday, said the 850-bed hospital would probably be the biggest and busiest hospital to care for Covid-19 patients in the Western Cape, if not in the country.
It will boast the “crème de la crème” of medical specialists, including infectious disease, emergency and internal medicine specialists as well as experienced nurses who will man the hospital’s four very large wards.
Wallis said work to fit out the new hospital would begin next week, with planning for the site already at an advanced stage.
“It will run like a hospital and, at the peak, will have about 200 admission and 200 discharges a day, which will make it one of the largest hospitals in the province, if not the country,” Wallis said.
The hospital, which will be an intermediate care facility, will only treat patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 and who need high level care, but not ICU care. It will also have state-of-the-art hospital equipment such as ultrasound and x-ray machines, and the National Health Laboratory Services will be working hand-in-hand with the medical team to ensure specimen tests.
By Thursday, the Western Cape remained the epicentre of Covid-19 in SA, with a total of 2,371 positive cases. At least 657 have recovered and six people have died over the last 24 hours, bringing the number of deaths to 46 so far.
As the country moves to level 4 of lockdown on Friday, Winde thanked the front-line essential workers “who have worked throughout this period and all of those residents who have abided by the lockdown rules”.
But he warned that the easing of lockdown regulations must not be a free-for-all and people should still maintain social distancing to avoid going back to more stringent levels of lockdown. If anything there would be more stringent rules under level 4, including the compulsory wearing of masks.
“I don’t want everybody to go out suddenly. We will not only be the province that has the most numbers, but we will be the province that will put down the more draconian slowing-down mechanisms,” said Winde.
While the Western Cape is currently known as the epicentre of Covid-19 in SA, Winde and health authorities have attributed this to a more rigorous approach, which actively locates cases and traces contacts, and includes screening in identified clusters.
Winde said every eight days the province increases its screening and testing capability, and over the last week it has moved from about 9,000 in the previous week to over 12,000 tests this week.
The Western Cape accounted for 30% of the country’s tests despite representing about 10% of the population.
On Thursday the province also introduced a statistical dashboard that will provide real-time statistical data to the public, including the number of tests conducted and the number of positive cases.