[imagesource: Ashraf Hendricks]
During the past few months, there have been many projections with staggeringly high death tolls and infection counts.
Some of those have proven to be wide of the mark, but that’s how predictions work when you’re dealing with a rapidly changing situation and data that may not provide the full picture.
Earlier this week, a presentation given by the SA COVID-19 modelling consortium, consisting of scientists and experts advising the government, estimated that more than 40 000 people are expected to die by November, with that number rising as high as 48 000.
Those who can’t wait to get their hair cut, or are desperate to feel beach sand between their toes, talk about fear-mongering and fake news, but many of those working at Cape Town’s hospitals will tell you the shit is about to hit the fan.
I know it’s complex and doesn’t make for good screaming matches on Facebook, but it is possible to believe that our more draconian lockdown regulations should be lifted, whilst also appreciating that our early lockdown actions saved lives, at the same time as being fearful of the impending surge in deaths.
Tygerberg Hospital has as many as 150 staff that have tested positive for COVID-19, but they’re not the only location up against it.
In a Citizen article from earlier today, headlined “now the horror begins in SA hospitals”, concerned doctors spoke out about what’s to come:
A doctor said the number of Covid-19 patients at Groote Schuur Hospital is doubling about every five days. He said a “surge of cases” was expected in the next few weeks.
“I expect there will be an excess of patients needing care even if all existing beds are opened,” said the doctor, who did not want to be named.
The hospital is currently running seven wards with over 120 Covid-19 patients, and four intensive care units with 19 Covid-19 patients. Three of these wards are for confirmed Covid-19 cases, others are for suspected cases – in other words people with respiratory illnesses.
In terms of those suspected cases, as many as 60% are now testing positive for COVID-19.
With Tygerberg’s intensive care unit full, and the same true for Mitchells Plain Hospital, Groote Schuur will now receive patients from both.
Doctors are being pushed to the limits, and their workload is only set to increase:
One doctor said nurses and doctors were working 12-hour shifts. Several doctors have tested positive, all with mild symptoms so far, and a larger number of other staff, including nurses and porters. Burnout is “starting to creep in” but there are a number of support services in place.
But some doctors and nurses are apparently not showing up for work or reluctant to work with Covid-19 patients. In a message to doctors, a senior hospital manager pleaded with them to make themselves available.
“My reason for writing to you tonight is to make a plea for your assistance and to request you to dig deep in asking yourselves why you became doctors in the first place. Each and every one of us now need to be truthful to our oath and to our profession.
“Some staff have volunteered to work in these wards; some have been told to work without any choice and there are many who have not come to the fore as yet.”
Putting aside the mental toll of watching patients die, and knowing the worst is still to come, take a moment to consider what it takes to get up every morning, or work through the night, in 12-hour shifts where you’re surrounded by, and in close contact with, confirmed COVID-19 cases.
If you think you have the chops, one doctor thinks you may be able to help:
A doctor said that “a transparent and feasible plan” was needed urgently to develop more capacity in the healthcare system.
“This requires beds, oxygen, and importantly, staff, plus a triage system that can identify patients requiring hospital versus lower levels of care. The public could volunteer and be trained to support lower care Covid-19 facilities.”
I enjoy the 8PM clapping, which is and always will be an insufficient way to say thanks to our healthcare workers (and others, like supermarket employees), but perhaps the chance will come to really step up months down the line.
For now, we can just hope our healthcare workers are given the tools they need to deal with the upcoming peak.
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