Two of Gauteng’s biggest hospitals have sounded the alarm amid a surge in Covid-19 admissions, with one stating that it has enough capacity to meet the current rate of intake until Tuesday.
Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital acting CEO Dr Steven Mankupane said the hospital could only match the current rate of admission, which had seen the number of patients double, until Tuesday when a review would take place.
His comments came as the province confirmed it was seeing a dramatic surge in hospital admission with 1,035 Covid-19 patients admitted in both public and private facilities.
Gauteng premier David Makhura said there 543 Covid-19 patients were admitted to public hospitals in the province, 84 were in intensive high care units and the rest in general wards, with 82 requiring oxygen. He said there 492 Covid-19 patients were admitted in private hospitals and 93 were in ICUs, with the rest in general wards while 53 needed oxygen.
Mankupane said there were 37 unvaccinated mothers-to-be who had tested positive for Covid-19 at the facility, with only 12 of them showing symptoms.
He said one Covid-19 ward was already full and they had begun the process of repurposing other wards for the pandemic by suspending non-emergency medical procedures.
In Tshwane, Steve Biko Academic Hospital CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula said the facility, which had no more than 10 patients admitted at the start of the third wave, had already seen more than 60 Covid-19 patients admitted at the start of fourth wave of pandemic.
Mathebula said the Tshwane District Hospital next door had “already been dedicated for Covid-19 admission again”.
She said they were having a mix of patients with most of them with mild Covid-19 symptoms. Mathebula said most of them were admitted for other illnesses and injuries but were found to have Covid-19 after they were tested upon admission.
Dr Mary Kawonga from the premier’s advisory committee said there was a shift in hospital distribution of admissions in the province with 20-39-year-olds representing a bigger share.
“There are 43% of people between the ages of 20-39 who are hospitalised and only 24% of people between the ages of 50 and 60 who are in hospital. This is the number that has the most vaccinated people. In the past four weeks the percentage of hospitalised Covid-19 patients under 40 years has increased,” she said.
While experts have also warned that the number of people who are being hospitalised is rising rapidly, they, however, said there was no indication that the increase was due to the new variant – Omicron.
Prof Shaheen Mehtar, infectious disease specialist at Stellenbosch University, said the infection rate among young adults was proportional to the number of people who were not vaccinated.
“Only 40% of the adult population is vaccinated. If you break it down you will notice that there is a low vaccination rate among younger people,” she said.
She said the Omicron variant had a higher transmissibility than previous variants.
“But it’s not infectious. It happens often that the transmissibility is higher because it now appears to be airborne. But it won’t present severe symptoms,” she said.
Vaccinology expert Prof Shabir Madhi said there was no evidence that people who contracted the Omicron variant resulted in more severe disease.
“In fact, on the contrary, the indications are that in majority of the cases they actually have mild disease. And the reason for that is that people have developed immunity from severe disease either from past infection due to other variants or because of vaccination.
“Those people who remain unvaccinated and have not been previously exposed to the virus are the ones who will end up with the severe disease,” he said.
Madhi said it could be expected that the number of cases of Omicron diagnosed per day in Gauteng would exceed whatever was seen with the previous three waves but that this did not mean infections would be progressing to severe disease.
The department of health raised concern about young adults, aged between 18 and 34 being the least vaccinated cohort in the country with only 27.6% of them having been jabbed for Covid-19.
Health department spokesperson Foster Mohale said the group was the most socially mobile yet the least vaccinated.