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How the NW health department is preparing for COVID-19 peak

According to the department’s spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane, there are currently 435 beds – with 33 high care beds and 55 intensive ICU beds for COVID-19 patients in the province.

FILE: The North West Department of Health head office in Mahikeng. Picture: Masechaba Sefularo/EWN.

BRITS, North West – As COVID-19 infections in the North West province continue to rise rapidly, the provincial health department said it had plans in place to manage cases in the impending peak period.

According to the department’s spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane, there are currently 435 beds – with 33 high care beds and 55 intensive care unit (ICU) beds – which have been designated for the care of COVID-19 patients across the province.

Lekgethwane on Friday said there were plans for additional beds, which were in different stages of implementation.

“Phase 1 of this plan is as follows; the Job Shimankana Tabane (JST) Hospital to convert ward 1 into 12 ICU beds, Klerksdorp Hospital to convert XDR into 20 ICU beds, Mahikeng Provincial Hospital to convert ward 2 into 12 ICU beds.”

By Thursday 2 July 2020, the province had 4,788 coronavirus cases – an increase of nearly 2,000 from the 2,965 cases that were recorded one week earlier.

Lekgethwane said phase 2 of the department’s COVID-19 plans included the procurement of more beds.

“Wesvaal Hospital [has] 270 beds [that are] already operational, Duff Scott Hospital 100 beds, Bleskop 120 beds. The Old Vryburg Hospital, George Stegman and Gelukspan (Ward 1) converted into isolation facilities.”

The 200-bed Maseve field hospital near Rustenburg was officially opened and handed over to the department by Royal Bafokeng Platinum on Wednesday.

Lekgethwane said they would also establish a second field hospital with a 500-bed capacity. However, the planned location for this facility has not yet been disclosed.

IS JST HOSPITAL BUCKLING UNDER PRESSURE?

The chief executive officer of the biggest hospital, JST Regional Hospital in Bojanala - which is the province’s COVID-19 epicentre with over 3,000 confirmed cases - has refuted claims the facility is struggling to cope with pressures of the pandemic.

In a written response to Eyewitness News, JST Hospital CEO Abednego Mvula said: “Just like all other facilities, JST [has] a challenge in rising numbers with staff infections. Some infections are community-acquired with transmissions to co-workers in low PPE environments such as tea rooms.”

According to Mvula, 203 patients were tested and 59 were positive, while 53 of the 137 staff also tested positive.

"Three [staff members] were admitted and those with moderate symptoms are in isolation."

Mvula said he could confirm that one nurse at the hospital had died recently after testing positive for the coronavirus. However, he said they could not confirm if this was a COVID-19 related death.

“Only one staff member did pass on. She tested positive. However, circumstances around the death make it difficult to attribute the cause of death to COVID-19.”

The CEO said where there weren't enough beds to cater to patients, the hospital had a memorandum of understanding with local private hospitals, which allowed them to refer patients for admission and treatment.

Mvula also said the facility was currently on a recruitment drive to employ staff that would be required to manage the anticipated increase in the number of cases in the area.