Tygerberg Hospital doctor says planning helped them cope with COVID-19 surge

Dr Usha Lalla said that the Tygerberg team, in collaboration with colleagues at other healthcare facilities in the province, managed to deal with the immense pressure and surge in the number of patients requiring medical care.

Dr Usha Lalla, in pink, is the operational head of the hospital's COVID-19 ICU ward. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - A Tygerberg Hospital ICU doctor said that having a detailed plan ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting home, helped them navigate the challenging times.

Dr Usha Lalla, operational head of the hospital's COVID-19 ICU ward, said that the treatment of patients had drastically changed from how it was initially approached during the early days of the disease in South Africa.

Since then, just over 1,200 COVID-19 patients have been admitted at the facility and 764 were discharged.

When the first COVID-19 patients were admitted at Tygerberg Hospital in March, clinicians followed internationally recommended protocols and put them on mechanical ventilators.

Six of the first seven patients died and doctors knew they had to change tactics.

Dr Lalla said that after they started using high-flow nasal oxygen therapy, clinical outcomes of COVID-19 patients improved.

"We realised that a large portion of the patients with the COVID-19 pneumonia, they did not require as much help with their breathing, they required lots of oxygen and which is why we started to use high flow."

Lalla said that the Tygerberg team, in collaboration with colleagues at other healthcare facilities in the province, managed to deal with the immense pressure and surge in the number of patients requiring medical care.

"We planned well and we planned early and we planned for a lot of possible problems and possible issues and we planned and we planned and we planned and when we actually hit with the surge, most of the things were in place."

Because high-flow nasal oxygen therapy can be done outside an ICU setting in a general ward, the capacity to treat critically ill patients was drastically increased.

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