Mediclinic Morningside in Sandton is now facing a fallout as 90 people linked to the hospital, including 79 healthcare workers, support staff and allied health professionals have tested positive for the contagious coronavirus.
The escalation in the number of cases follows the hospital being closed to new admissions last week after 15 staff had initially contracted the virus.
Speaking to Moneyweb on Wednesday, Dr Stefan Smuts, chief clinical officer at JSE-listed Mediclinic Southern Africa, confirmed that 90 individuals where affected.
Breaking down the figures, he said 11 patients, 37 healthcare workers, 33 supporting staff members and nine allied health professionals had now tested positive for coronavirus. However, he played down the outbreak, saying this represented less than 10% of the around 1 000 staff and doctors that work in the hospital.
“Essentially everyone linked to the hospital has now been tested, with the majority of these returning negative results. All associated doctors at the hospital tested negative. The staff members that have contracted the virus are all currently in isolation and will remain so until they are fully recovered,” said Smuts.
“All staff who tested positive as well as their high-risk contacts were stepped down from duty and followed up on a regular basis until they are either fully recovered or cleared for duty,” he added.
Smuts said that Mediclinic Morningside is one of the group’s biggest hospitals in Johannesburg.
“Gauteng has the most Covid-19 cases in South Africa, and Sandton as the financial hub, will naturally have a higher number of cases. This can be seen as a contributing factor to the high number of cases at this hospital, with the virus being highly contagious,” he noted.
“The safety of our patients, staff and doctors is our number one priority. Mediclinic acted swiftly in order to mitigate the risk to all involved and we can assure the community that we have established procedures relating to staff exposure, the risk thereof and testing.
“After testing all staff members and other individuals working within the facility, Mediclinic Morningside continues to also monitor all individuals daily as part of our strict access control policy,” he added.
Asked if Mediclinic had seen similar Covid-19 outbreaks at any of its other hospitals across South Africa, Smuts said no, however he noted that various hospitals were treating Covid-19 patients.
“This is a highly communicable virus and I believe that we are going to see a lot more cases and such outbreaks in other private hospitals in the country. Right now, some private hospitals are being hard hit as a lot of the original Covid-19 cases were regarded as ‘imported’ by people who travelled overseas. These are people who can access private healthcare, but it is a matter of time before public healthcare facilities are also affected,” he said.
Earlier this month Netcare’s St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban had to be closed after more than 60 staff members and patients tested positive for the virus. The hospital is still closed to all new admissions, despite undertaking a full disinfection of the facility. Two other Netcare hospitals in the province have also closed admissions temporarily, following personnel contracting the virus.
South Africa’s public hospitals either have not reported such outbreaks or have not felt the impact of Covid-19 as seriously as private hospitals yet.
Speaking during a webcast media briefing on Saturday, Moneyweb asked Health Minister Zweli Mkhize if there are any such outbreaks at public hospitals, considering what had happened at Netcare St Augustine’s.
“We have not been notified of such outbreaks at public hospitals,” he replied.
“We are trying to combine the list of all health workers who could be Covid-19 positive. In that regard, there would have been some who are at public hospitals. However, we were concerned about what happened at St Augustine’s because the number of staff who were positive was just too high,” he said.
“In fact, it was actually quite shocking. We must get to the bottom of what happened to also ensure that we prevent this from happening in any other areas,” he added.
Mkhize, the National Department of Health and the Gauteng Health Department are yet to comment on the outbreak at Mediclinic Morningside.