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Netcare’s R450m Covid-19 fight as another hospital halts admissions

An unidentified number of staff and patients at Kingsway Hospital have now also tested positive for the coronavirus in KwaZulu-Natal.
Netcare CEO, Dr Richard Friedland, says the group is seriously tackling the 'extraordinary challenge' of the Covid-19 pandemic. Image: Moneyweb

South Africa’s largest private hospital group Netcare has put R800 million in capital expenditure projects on hold and redirected around R450 million to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic within its network in the country.

That’s the word from Netcare CEO, Dr Richard Friedland, speaking to Moneyweb this week.

He says most of this money, around R300 million, is going towards the group buying personal protective equipment (PPE) for its frontline staff.

It comes in the wake of the worsening healthcare fallout from the pandemic, which has now seen three key private healthcare facilities in the country being forced to close to new admissions amid “outbreaks” of Covid-19 amongst hospital staff.

The latest casualty is a second Netcare facility in KwaZulu-Natal, the Kingsway Hospital near the coastal town of Amanzimtoti, south of Durban, which halted all new admissions on Wednesday after an unidentified number of staff and patients tested positive for the coronavirus.

Kingsway Hospital in Amanzimtoti, south of Durban. Image: Supplied

Moneyweb also reported on Wednesday that Netcare’s JSE-listed rival, Mediclinic, had to close new admissions (barring emergencies) to its Morningside Mediclinic facility in Sandton, after 15 staff and four patients tested positive for Covid-19.

The closures to new admissions at Kingsway Hospital and Morningside Mediclinic, come in the wake of Netcare last week being forced to shutdown one of its flagship facilities in South Africa, the Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital in Berea, Durban, after more than 60 people, including 47 staff tested positive for Covid-19.

Read:

Mediclinic Morningside closes new admissions as 15 staff contract Covid-19

KZN health dept shuts down Netcare hospital

With 464 beds and almost 2 000 staff, St Augustine’s is Netcare’s largest medical campus in KwaZulu-Natal. Worth noting is that KwaZulu-Natal, which reported the first Covid-19 positive case in the country on March 5, continues to see the most deaths related to the virus.

According to latest stats released by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday night, the province now accounts for 18 of the 34 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in SA.

He reported that there were seven new virus-related deaths since Tuesday, six of which were senior pensioners from KwaZulu-Natal, all over the age of 70.

The other death was a 50-year-old man from Gauteng, which now has five confirmed Covid-19 deaths. The Western Cape still has eight confirmed deaths, while Free State province accounts for three deaths.

Read: Nehawu pulls court case against government over protective gear

Mkhize’s latest statement was brief and did not reveal at which hospitals the latest virus-related deaths had occurred.

Speaking before the latest update, Friedland told Moneyweb that five deaths linked to the virus involved patients at the Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital. He said he could not reveal any further information on case numbers, as the national or provincial health departments had to first report on all cases.

“We have to abide by their rules; however, it is important to remember that KwaZulu-Natal did have the first few Covid-19 cases in South Africa. In fact, within Netcare’s hospitals in the province, St Augustine’s was one of the first to handle positive Covid-19 patients in mid-March and felt the full impact of the pandemic,” he said.

Friedland said that as soon as the outbreak at St Augustine’s came to the attention of the Netcare group’s executives, they decided to close the hospital to all new admissions as far back as April 3.

“We took the situation seriously from the start … After several staff and patients tested positive for Covid-19, we immediately closed the hospital to all new admissions and commenced a mass testing programme of all staff and people that may have visited the hospital,” he noted.

Read: Netcare hospital under scrutiny as staff contract coronavirus

“The testing revealed that 47 staff had contracted the virus and all our attention as a group went towards dealing with the urgency of the situation at St Augustine’s, together with the assistance of the relevant health department officials. We also were treating 15 pre-existing, community-acquired Covid-19 patients within the hospital’s dedicated Covid-19 isolation units,” he said.

Friedland said the group’s decision to close one of its biggest hospitals to all new admissions and cancel all elective surgeries with the group’s network of hospitals highlighted how seriously it was tackling the “extraordinary challenge” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We want to resolve the situation at St Augustine’s as soon as possible and will leave no stone unturned and spare no cost in keeping every person in our care as well as our staff and doctors as safe as possible,” he said.

“Since mid-January we began preparing as a group around the possibility of Covid-19 coming to SA. We began the rollout of patient screenings at our hospitals, and in March after Covid-19 hit, we decided to halt all major capital expansion projects, worth around R800 million, within the Netcare group for the year,” he said.

“However, we have invested R150 million in boosting our ICUs and in purchasing new ventilators. We are also investing R300 million in buying appropriate medical PPE for all our staff in the face of Covid-19 pandemic,” Friedland pointed out.

He said that Netcare “fully supports the government-declared lockdown” to try to curb the pandemic. In line with this, the group had also decided to close all its onsite pharmacies and restaurants to visitors at its hospitals, in addition to restricting its patient visitors.

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At this rate of closures there will be no private hospitals open by the end of the month – Guavament will see to that.

Next step nationalisation ???

Have no doubt when things get bad private hospitals will be nationalized..

Are public hospital staff tested?

Definitely not in the eastern cape. No test kits

These are not nice people. They are like vultures or worse.

Go there and see for yourself. If they had it their way they wont let you in the door without having a blank cheque or your credit card.

Its all about money. I have not seen anything worse than this lot.

Somehow I think they deserve what they get.

Well, it is a private hospital and they want to get paid for their services. What is wrong with that?

Exactly what I am saying. They just want to be paid.

No values, morals, ethics, compassion etc. etc. etc. Must be a industry where these are of lesser importance. And I guess whats wrong with that?

Depends on the person.

I spent a few days in a private hospital 8 months ago and I had no complaints about the personnel at all. I was treated good.

Be careful what you wish for. You might need them again.

I remember trying to book my grandfather into a private hospital. He had a transnet pension and medical and they only would send him to a state hospital. I had to hand them R17,000 before they would admit him.

Go to gov. Hospital then.

At the moment government hospitals are the safest,

most COVIDS cases in SA are rich travelers anyway visiting private hospitals

It’s a private hospital paid with by PRIVATE money from PRIVATE investors who do expect a return on their investment via their unit trusts, ETFs, retirement funds, etc. Many of these people are pensioners who, during 40+ years of working, also contributed via their taxes to the public health system.

If you have a problem with private hospitals, DON’T USE THEM!

Love it as “free marketers” push in the pensioner in his wheelchair argument that borders on plain rent-seekers…

Idiots, if the service was so first class they surely are clueless on this corona pandemic..

Wait, they expect government to provide them with PPE and standards of operation with a virus??

In normal times it is usual for medical staff to work across/rotate between hospitals. Is this now being restricted, whether hospitals are closed to new admissions or not?

If this happens in government hospitals are they gonna close that also?

Only reason it has hasn’t happened in government hospitals yet is cause they not testing like they do at the private hospitals…. Trust me… Go test at any gov hospital this week and u will find it there creeping around…… Infact at this stage go test people in any big public biulding and u will find it….. Watch how this thing is gonna go crazy once all the kids go back to school after lock down in 3 weeks….. It’s impossible to social distance kids – out of 700 kids acouple will come in with it and spread it to the rest…… Jumping from family to family… It takes 10 to 14 days to show symptoms…. Half the kids family’s that attend that school will have it before anyone becomes aware….. Screw that….. Having been smashed in the American market to the tune of 47% losses, to having a business in the local property renovation market thats just gone belly up….. I’m keeping my kids home schooled and in lock down till end of winter….. I can’t afford to have anyone in my family get hit by this virus aswell…. Start of next year I’m gonna have to start all over again from scratch….. Gonna have to boot strap a New bussiness
Up from the ground….. Lost everything at 34……. And again now at 46….. Alot of people are gonna be zeroed out…there gonna be alot of work to get done…. I can’t afford to work on peopled roofs and stuff stuck with only 30 % lung capacity.. We just gonna have to take what we have left and rebuild from the foundation up.

Strange, seems very reactive response from Netcare? Staff shouldve had PPE before not after. Gov maybe has more resources but Ive seen theyve created dedicated Covid facilities before the lockdown already.

My brother’s friend, whose wife recently had a baby, was one of those who tested positive at this Kingsway Hospital. Allegedly, the nurses were not changing gloves when they were moving between the ward that is treating Covid-19 patients and other patients!!

It is plain incompetence and negligence from the operation of a hospital.

Why do they not have the PPE or operating standard to deal with a virus??

Clearly China and Italy was a forewarning to up their standards or operations?

My better half is a highly qualified ICU nurse at one of the private hospitals in this Godforsaken country. Let me tell you, dear reader, we are stuffed. She mentioned an incident where a patient presenting symptoms similar to Congo fever was submitted a few years ago. This patient was immediately isolated in ICU as per regulations. All is now fine except that the nurses came and went as per business as usual concerning the isolation room. No changing of the required PPE as per standard operating procedures, they visited other nurses and patients in other wards still wearing the same (possible contaminated) PPE. Luckily, it later transpired that the patient tested negative for the highly contagious Congo fever. What do you think is going to happen now?

In Uk most private hospitals are doing state cases for free. All ventilators have been taken to state icu s and all elective work cancelled for over 1 month. All Covid patients regardless if they have private insurance are treated by the state in nhs hospitals

Perhaps because the state is not too inclined to look at costs when confronting a pandemic, the risk of ering in cost saving is just way too high!!

This is a tough situation, what people dont realize is the “landlord” isnt some greedy fat cat sitting in his study at night counting out the rent cheques at the end of the month, nor is it simply a case of “oh well the banks are deferring the interest payment so everythings good” There is an entire ecosystem below, the landlord pays security, electricity, rates, cleaners, management teams (the malls dont just manage themselves with management being more intensive now given restricted access and additional cleaning and sanitizing) insurance, maintainence, waste removal not to mention dozens of contractors and suppliers and dividends…. to many peoples pension funds. So to just say landlords must suck it up is unfair. Many of these national retailers are also paid generous fit out allowances and custom fit HVAC systems etc- these too are often financed by the landlord, thus with no rent these items too dont get paid for, its too simplistic a few to just say dont pay as the shops closed, somebody pays at the end of the day. The fair thing would be to go 50/50, two weeks free rent, two weeks rental paid for the month lockdown that way perhaps a compromise is reached at a midpoint, the pain is shared.

‘’Be Careful what you Wish For’’

Jeffrey Archer

Two families (The Barrington’s and the Cliftons) – United by fate, threatened by betrayal) – we shouldn’t fall into that trap now – Covind 19 will destroy us in the boardrooms as well!
I heard it through the Grapevine!
Spare a thought for all the Doctors and nursing staff at those Netcare Units where all elective surgeries were canceled.
Most of the specialists rent their Practise space from the hospitals. They can only do emergency procedures. My wife recently had a shoulder operation at Montana Hospital and I took her for a final ‘’check-up’’ with the Orthopaedic surgeon today. He is still a young Doctor that only started a couple of years ago. They are very worried as they all have very big overheads to cover without any income.
Not one Covind 19 case has been reported at this hospital to date. The nursing staff are ‘’taken off’’ the shifts and they are all waiting for the ‘’patients’’ to arrive – they are also losing salaries when they are taken off.

If it is this bad in the private hospitals then it is much worse in the public hospitals.

We have a nation with two sets of rules.

End of comments.

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