JSE-listed private hospital group Netcare is facing a Covid-19 fallout as more than 40 staff members have tested positive for the contagion coronavirus at its St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban.
On Tuesday Health Minister Zweli Mkhize warned that the parts of the hospital could close, after confirming that 66 people linked to the hospital, including 48 staff members [officially 47], have thus far tested positive for Covid-19.
St Augustine’s is the largest private hospital in KwaZulu-Natal and is regarded as one of the flagship healthcare facilities within Netcare, South Africa largest hospital group.
“We are concerned about developments at St Augustine’s Hospital. 66 [people] tested positive over the past few days. About 48 of them are staff. The provincial health department is engaging the hospital, with a view to closing parts of the hospital down,” Mkhize said.
“We hope the fumigation process will start soon there. We have also assigned specialists there. We must always be on the lookout. The infection can seep in from any institution.
“We must now trace all the contacts. It is a matter of serious concern and we are dealing with it,” he added.
On Friday KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala revealed during a media briefing that 11 healthcare workers from a private hospital in Durban had tested positive for Covid-19. He did not mention the hospital, however local media reported that it was the Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital.
Following Zikalala’s statement, Netcare Group CEO, Dr Richard Friedland, confirmed that the hospital’s trauma unit had been closed and the hospital was no longer taking any new admissions.
In a statement sent to Moneyweb on Wednesday, Friedland clarified that 47 staff at St Augustine’s Hospital had tested positive for Covid-19.
“Of the staff and doctors tested, we confirm that 47 people who are connected with our hospital have tested positive for Covid-19.
“Of the 47 positive cases, 33 are in self-isolation and a further 14 are being accommodated by Netcare to ensure that they are able to safely self-quarantine,” said Friedland.
He noted that one staff member who tested positive, has since tested negative following his period of self-quarantine and has since returned to work. The hospital has 15 patients currently who tested positive, while there have been four deaths related to the virus.
“We are deeply saddened that, despite our very best efforts and precautions, there have been a total of four Covid-19 associated deaths at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital since the outbreak started in South Africa,” said Friedland.
“As a healthcare group that holds the sanctity of life above all else, every death is one too many. At this tragic time, we wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of the people who passed away. They are in our thoughts and prayers,” he added.
Friedland assured South Africans that Netcare was “sparing no effort or cost” to keep every person in its care, including its staff and doctors, as safe as possible.
“Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital has a total of 15 pre-existing community acquired Covid-19 patients in its dedicated Covid-19 isolation units at present.
“Of these patients, we can confirm that one person has already recovered and tested negative and is expected to be discharged shortly,” he noted.
Meanwhile, following Zikalala’s comments on Friday, Mkhize appealed to anyone who had visited St Augustine’s Hospital since the beginning of March to be tested for Covid-19. At the time he said around 150 tests linked to the hospital had already been carried out.
Giving an update on South Africa’s latest Covid-19 numbers on Tuesday, Mkhize announced that there were 1 749 confirmed cases at that stage, with 13 deaths. He said that the patients being treated were “slowly recovering” and added that mass testing had started in all provinces.
As at today, the total number of confirmed #COVID19 cases is 1749. There is also another death, bringing the total to 13 deaths. It was a male who had stage 4 prostrate cancer at Parklands Hospital. We convey our condolences to the family of the deceased
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) April 7, 2020