Experts slate SA public health sector’s lack of readiness for second wave

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With death and infection rates climbing, MedicalBrief notes that health experts have slated the government’s readiness for the second wave of COVID-19.

The SA Medical Association (SAMA) is quoted in a Sunday Times report as saying that the country is less prepared than it was for the first wave. It said little effort has been made to boost staff complements at hospitals after large numbers of health-care workers succumbed to the coronavirus.

The Sunday Times reports that it has also learnt that despite being informed in September that an audit of 160 hospitals found that most required urgent upgrades to patient oxygen-supply systems, the government has done little to fix the problems. With infections skyrocketing, experts say a quick vaccine rollout is South Africa‘s final defence. But this has been botched too, they say.

Of the audited hospitals, 40 required major upgrades, including the installation of bulk oxygen tanks and specialised reticulation systems to pipe oxygen to patients’ beds, and 110 required minor upgrades.

Ministerial advisory committee (MAC) member Prof Ian Sanne, speaking in his capacity as CEO of Right to Care, said in the report that the recommendations were presented to national and provincial health departments, public works and Treasury officials in September, but “little if any action has been taken”.

He said the Gauteng Health Department is awaiting Treasury approval to implement the recommendations. The KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Health Departments have implemented only a few recommendations.

Meanwhile, the report says, SAMA has appealed to the government to immediately lift the moratorium on frozen medical posts. “SAMA warned the health department in October that staffing plans needed to be in place when the second wave struck, but there was no desperate effort to employ more staff, especially in the public sector, not even on contract,” said SAMA chair Dr Angelique Coetzee.

The Sunday Times reports that the national Health Department did not respond to questions on South Africa’s readiness for the second-wave spike or the government’s negotiations on a vaccine.

Western Cape Health spokesperson, Marika Champion, said all the metro, central and regional hospitals had medical oxygen installations with oxygen tanks and cylinders’ banks as a backup supply.

Gauteng Health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said all state hospitals in the province had bulk oxygen supply tanks. Minor upgrades that needed to be done entailed the flow of oxygen. In regard to major upgrades, Kekana said electromechanical upgrades were being effected…

Eastern Cape Health spokesperson Siyanda Manana said there is no shortage of oxygen.

Full Sunday Times report

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