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No field hospitals built in N Cape yet

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While the number of Covid-19 infections in the Northern Cape has surpassed 1 500, it has emerged that no field hospitals have been built in the Northern Cape as yet.

Picture: Silas Camargo Silão /Pixabay

WHILE the number of Covid-19 infections in the Northern Cape has surpassed 1 500, it has emerged that no field hospitals have been built in the Northern Cape as yet.

This is according to a recent question posed in Parliament by the DA’s Siviwe Gwarube to the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize.

In his reply, Mkhize indicated that no field hospitals had been built in the Northern Cape, Mpumalanga or Limpopo.

In other provinces, the construction of field hospitals was at different levels of completion, from site handovers to the completion of the construction of the hospital. “Most of these are the modification of the space in the existing hospitals,” the minister stated in his reply.

Gwarube, the DA’s spokesperson on health, indicated that she was shocked that the two provinces which are experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases and fatalities effectively have one functioning field hospital between the two.

“Gauteng, the current epicentre of Covid-19, has recently launched the Nasrec facility which is currently operating as a quarantine facility as opposed to a field hospital. 

“In Parliament, the minister confirmed that this will soon include more equipment and more staff members to make it fully functional. The key difference between a quarantine facility and a field hospital is the presence of hospital beds, oxygen supply and staff members who can treat patients who may be stable enough not to be in ICU. Currently, the Nasrec facility isn’t equipped to be a field hospital. While functioning as a quarantine facility, the province is in need of a hospital that can help ease the pressure on the hospitals which are currently at full capacity.”

Gwarube indicated further that the DA had supported the government’s strategy to lock down the country for 21 days in order to build health capacity. “It was specifically for days like this. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the now more than 100-day lockdown was wasted, as government has failed to utilise the period to effectively build this capacity.”

She indicated that the Eastern Cape had a field hospital which was donated through the private sector. “This is a welcomed move because the fight against Covid-19 is not one for the public sector alone. However, the province is experiencing an explosion of cases and fatalities and the health system in the province is currently on its knees with facilities having run out of space for patients; insufficient ambulances in areas like Nelson Mandela Bay and chronic staff shortages. It is unthinkable that the province is yet to build a field hospital in the various parts across the province in order to ease the pressure being experienced at facilities.”

Gwarube pointed out that the minister’s reply further revealed that three provinces, Limpopo, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, had no field hospitals by the end of June. 

“The Western Cape is the only province in which all planned field hospitals are completed with 1 268 beds, the most of any province.

“It is now clear that the department did not use the risk-adjusted lockdown, which has been devastating to the economy, as a chance to prepare the health system for the surge in Covid-19 cases.”

The Office of the Premier in the Northern Cape as well as the Northern Cape Department of Health failed to respond to requests for comment.