No shortage of hospital beds, says Eastern Cape health MEC

Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, with St Barnabas Hospital CEO Nombulelo Nobanda and chief medical officer Dr Vusumzi Mehlo at the Libode-based hospital in Ntlaza on Friday. Gomba was there to deliver personal protective equipment.
Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, with St Barnabas Hospital CEO Nombulelo Nobanda and chief medical officer Dr Vusumzi Mehlo at the Libode-based hospital in Ntlaza on Friday. Gomba was there to deliver personal protective equipment.
Image: Lulamile Feni

There is no special government arrangement to send Eastern Cape patients to hospitals in other provinces.

That was the word from provincial health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, who was helping deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to Libode-based St Barnabas Hospital in Ntlaza on Friday.

Gomba said some patients sometimes had homes in difference provinces, and they went to whichever hospital was closest.  

On Thursday Covid-19 project management unit team leader Dr Sibongile Zungu was quoted as saying as new Covid-19 cases increased by about 2,000 a day, the Eastern Cape would need help from its neighbours.

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane appointed the unit a week ago to provide technical support and advice to the province.

Zungu is the former head of the KwaZulu-Natal health department and is health minister Zweli Mkhize’s clinical adviser.

 But Gomba  insisted the province was not faced with a shortage of hospital beds.

''We have people staying on the borders of the province and some of them have dual homes in the Eastern Cape and other provinces, so these people go to the hospital which is closest to where they stay. They have been doing this a long time, before the coronavirus. This has got nothing to do with the government, it is not a government arrangement, it’s an individual choice,'' said Gomba.

“There is no dire shortage of beds and we are not anticipating it. We have hospitals that are even less than 60% capacity.'' 

Gomba said though St Barnabas Hospital was comparatively small, it had become a “beacon of hope” in the fight against Covid-19.

The hospital “demystified” negative perceptions about the Eastern Cape health system.

She said there was always PPE, even before Covid-19, but the pandemic highlighted the importance of the equipment.    

She said that she was grateful for the commitment shown by hospital staff.

The hospital had made great strides in countering the effects of the virus, she said, and the efforts of staff were one of the reasons the province had an 80% recovery rate.

Gomba said she was assessing how many hospital beds were available in the OR Tambo district, and once this was established, the health department would know whether more facilities should be upgraded or built.

She said in many facilities, beds that were reserved for coronavirus patients ''are more or less not very full all the time”.

''We must be careful of building more, and waste money on white elephants. As the Eastern Cape [government] we took a conscious decision that when we build, we must build within our hospitals. This will help improve the standards of our hospitals. Beyond Covid-19 we are looking at universal health care though National Health Insurance. We still demand ideal clinics and ideal hospitals.”

The delivery of the PPE to the hospital was welcomed by its CEO, Nombulelo Nobandla, as well as labour unions.


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