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Tygerberg sets up COVID-19 field hospital

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The Western Cape is preparing for the roll-out of the mass coronavirus screenings announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday. It follows concern over a growing number of local transmissions, with South Africa’s current infections at 1380. The virus has infected almost 900 000 people globally, with more than 49 000 deaths.

On Thursday, MEC for Health in the Western Cape Nomafrench Mbombo conducted an inspection of Tygerberg hospital, the provinces designated coronavirus facility. As per the Western Cape Government, there are 326 positive ccoronavirus patients in the province, an increase of more than 100 in just a week. The dedicated units at Tygerberg accounts for one of 17 being earmarked in the province.

Tygerberg’s head of general internal medicine Nishaad Schrueder explained that there are different sections that will deal with drive-through, one-on-one screening and testing as well as for admission, which includes isolation and treatment. The health workers that are responsible for the handling of these patients are fully equipped with face masks and plastic suits. The patient administration section of the facility also has a screening room which separates health workers and those getting tested with a glass screen.

The largest of the quickly assembled structures is considered the “triage” and has the capability of being used as a “field hospital” should the need arise. If the number of patients needing critical care surges, for example, the facility can be morphed to change its function. In this case, portioning is ready for use while there are also oxygen points and other high intensive care equipment available.

At present, the hospital is capable of treating an estimated 370 patients. Mbombo said that given how the daily number of national infections has decreased, authorities are trying to establish whether there is an increasing trend of community transmission and if more beds are required.

Tygerberg CEO Demitri Erasmus noted that the upcoming medial management programme will include mass screenings and thereafter move onto testing. He explained that the screening involves obtaining details about the potential patient, by asking questions such as what their health status is and if they have a recent travel history. Erasmus revealed that of 2 194 screenings that took place at the facility since 13 March 2020, only 376 were actually tested.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde announced that the province has 393 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 22 of whom have been hospitalised, while seven patients are being treated in ICU. He also revealed on Tuesday that 50 people fully recovered, had completed their 14-day isolation period and were sent home to obey the lockdown regulations.

Mbombo said that, despite a global shortage of medical equipment, the National Health Laboratory Service confirmed that they have enough testing kits. Mbombo meanwhile added that there needs to be clear communication between government and community members, noting that the approach to each will be different. She was commenting on the rollout of the screenings which is expected to take place next Monday.


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