The country is fast approaching a million cases of COVID-19, with the current national tally at 921 922 – this is after 9 445 new infections were picked up, as of Sunday, 20 December 2020.

In addition to tighter lockdown restrictions, the second wave of COVID-19 has also seen the death toll rise, now sitting at 24 691, after 152 more fatalities were recorded on Sunday.

As if that wasn’t enough, with the current single-day average of COVID-19 infections at more than 10 000, hospitals are also not having it easy, with some forced to make some changes to accommodate patients battling the virus.

COVID-19 in SA: Hospital beds full in Western Cape

Hospitals in the Western Cape were particularly under pressure as the number of COVID-19-related admissions continues to rise. The provincial health department acknowledged this saying the reason was also attributed to non-COVID-19 trauma cases.

The department said the 231 adult ICU/high care beds across hospitals are currently fluctuating between 80-100% total capacity daily, which is placing enormous pressure on the capability of all facilities. An additional 136 dedicated adult ICU Covid-19 beds were made available, bringing the combined ICU/high care beds to 367, the department said.

“As at December 18 there were 2,032 total Covid-19 patients in hospital of which 287 were in ICU/high care. However, the additional capacity made available requires resources to directed away from other services, meaning less capability for a particular health service to be rendered,” the provincial health department said.

“In addition, the 4,443 acute beds — excluding maternity, paediatric, neonatal, psychiatry beds, Red Cross, Mowbray and the TB hospitals — across the province are also taking strain with metro hospitals operating at 78% and rural hospitals at 89%. The various bed totals change daily and are monitored by the management teams at hospitals.”

The department said it relied on agencies, volunteers and bursary holders, extra doctors and the redeployment of internal staff to boost its capacity. It has also called on the public play its role to reducing the COVID-19 infections by adhering to the necessary health protocols.

“Staff safety is given the highest priority during this high-pressure period. No effort is spared to ensure safety protocols are adhered to. We have also staggered leave arrangements to try to ensure that staff can have some rest and time with their families,” it said.

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