World, Health, Africa

South African province faces shortage of hospital beds amid pandemic

Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, one of largest in country, with over 1,000 beds remains closed after fire incident

Hassan Isilow   | 15.06.2021
South African province faces shortage of hospital beds amid pandemic


South Africa’s most populated province Gauteng faces a shortage of beds as the country deals with the third wave of COVID-19 infections, health officials and legislators said.

The province which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria is currently the epicenter of the third wave of the virus, representing 67% of all infections in the country.

According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), South Africa reported 5,552 cases over the past 24 hours after a week of over 8,000 daily cases bringing the total number of cases to more than 1.75 million.

Some 144 more people lost their lives due to the virus, bringing the nationwide death toll of 57,879.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on health visited the province’s healthcare facilities in Gauteng on the weekend to access readiness to deal with the third wave as they rolled out Phase II of the vaccination program.

The shortage of beds came as Charlotte Maxake Hospital in Johannesburg which has 1,088 usable beds was closed in April after a fire incident.

In a statement late Monday, Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo, the committee’s chairman, said: “It will be practically impossible for the province to manage the 3rd wave without the more than 1,000 beds which is inclusive of 124 Intensive Care Unit beds at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.”

Charlotte Maxeke Hospital is also the main teaching hospital for the University of the Witwatersrand Faculty of Health Sciences in Johannesburg.

“This matter needs urgent attention and we have committed as the Portfolio Committee to engage national Ministers to see how they can assist to ensure that the facility is ready and available to assist in the management of the 3rd wave,” said Dhlomo.

Meanwhile, the South African Medical Association told EWN, a news website, that the demand for beds in Gauteng hospitals has hit crisis levels.
The association said hospitals in Gauteng do not have sufficient bed capacity to accommodate patients.

“It’s a crisis out there, it doesn't matter anymore whether positive or not, not even if you are extremely sick, there's no guarantee that you will get a bed in ICU,” said Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the association’s chairwoman.​​​​​

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