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MSF urges DoH to deploy medics to COVID-19 hotspots

Médecins Sans Frontières, which is running a COVID-19 ward in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, has appealed to the government to strengthen its national emergency response capacity to deploy doctors, reports Daily Maverick.

The appeal was sent as Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced that a second wave of infections has hit South Africa. The Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have been identified as provinces where infection rates are surging.

To help the Nelson Mandela metro to cope with the projected influx of patients, Gift of the Givers is finalising a plan to pay the salaries of 26 paramedics to work at Livingstone Hospital and bolster the number of hands on deck, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said last week.

He said the memorandum of understanding between the Eastern Cape Department of Health and Gift of the Givers was at an advanced stage. “We will fund them to support current staff at Livingstone Hospital and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro until the end of January, for now,” Sooliman said.

The pandemic could never be managed by the government alone, he said. “It requires the participation of all 60 million of us. Financial support, assistance with medical supplies, infrastructure upgrade and responsible behaviour is key.

Sooliman said he was receiving calls for assistance from everywhere in the Eastern Cape telling him that the hospitals were full, even though hospital managers and other senior personnel had been barred from providing numbers.

“The casualty can’t cope. The queues are lengthening outside. We have to increase capacity. We have them sitting on chairs. We find many dead there. Funeral parlours, big and small, have never been this busy.” This, Sooliman said, came from conversations he had every day with healthcare workers.

“It’s not a good place to be in for healthcare workers, but what strikes me immediately is the resilience, the inner strength, the commitment and the desire to serve, in spite of their own emotional and mental state. You witness the efforts to make it better in the face of all odds against them. You hear the compassion in the voices, witness the mercy in their souls, these are the healthcare workers on the frontline and the last line of defence between us and Covid-19.

After sending a team of healthcare workers to help hospitals facing a Covid-19 crisis in the Eastern Cape, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is also urging the National Department of Health to improve its national emergency response capacity by ensuring that medical staff can be rapidly assigned to developing Covid-19 hotspots throughout the country, to fill critical staffing gaps.

According to MSF, the public health system in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality in the Eastern Cape was on the brink of collapse in November due to a catastrophic shortage of human resources unable to handle a surge in Covid-19 cases.

A team of 20 MSF-employed doctors and nurses who were sent to Nelson Mandela Bay metro were rapidly integrated into Livingstone Hospital and the Rev Dr Elizabeth Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni Field Hospital — a large Volkswagen manufacturing plant that has functioned as a Covid-19 field hospital since late June.

Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said from 27 November, 33 patients had been admitted to a ward with oxygen that had been converted from an underground parking garage as part of the province’s Covid-19 response. But hospital sources said there were only 20 beds that could be used in the basement, and the ward was mostly run by MSF, writes Daily Maverick.

Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Mvusi Sicwetsha, said the premier was confident that the provincial health system would cope for the moment, but warned that it would not be able to withstand a rise in infections caused by large-scale irresponsible behaviour. He said there was a need for PPE, hand sanitiser, pulse oximeters, thermometers, scrubs and more beds, oxygen, high flow nasal oxygen machines, flow meters, oxygen gauges, splitters and oxygen masks — and even basics such as blankets and linen.

 

[link url="https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-12-10-emergency-response-doctors-without-borders-urges-government-to-send-medics-to-covid-19-hotspots/"]Full Daily Maverick report[/link]

 

See also from MedicalBrief Archives:
 

[link url="https://www.medicalbrief.co.za/archives/alarm-over-eastern-cape-crisis-is-fake-news-says-province/"]Alarm over Eastern Cape is 'fake news' says province[/link]

 

[link url="https://www.medicalbrief.co.za/archives/netcare-offers-to-assist-struggling-eastern-cape/"]Netcare offers to assist struggling Eastern Cape[/link]

 

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