New ICU ward for Joburg hospital

Johannesburg – The Gauteng Health Department has unveiled a new intensive care unit (ICU) ward at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital.

During the opening ceremony last Thursday Gauteng Health department head Professor Mkhululi Lukhele said health-care in the province is imperative as it is the country’s business hub.

“Our health-care workers are fighting an invisible war and are getting the bullets, and over 1 000 of our soldiers have already contracted the virus. If Gauteng falls, then the country is in trouble. We are the second-highest province in terms of infections, behind the Western Cape,” he said.

This hospital serves region F and some of region D of the city, which includes Hillbrow, Alexandra and Diepsloot, the leading areas in positive cases, Lukhele said.

The additional 29 beds were donated by FirstRand’s Spire fund to combat the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases seeking treatment. The new ward cost R5 million, and will be one of the two new wards donated by Spire.

The hospital’s Covid-19 wards had already reached a combined 80% capacity; and it was a matter of time before it would turn patients away. The cardiology ward was chosen for the Covid-19 cases as it already had life-support equipment needed for critical patients.

Pulmonology Professor Mervyn Mer said the hospital had seen a dramatic escalation in the number of Covid-19 cases the previous week. At that time it was treating 243 such patients.

“We are lucky enough not to have to turn Covid-19 patients away. Our Covid-19 ICU ward is one of the best in the country; and we began setting it up before the virus reached SA. The additional beds mean we more than double our capacity for Covid-19 patients,” Mer said. 

He explained that ventilation is integral to the fight against the virus, so this ward was chosen because it had many windows. 

“When patients arrive, the windows will be open but covered with a screen. Droplets from the mouth and nose can stay in the air for up to three hours, so ventilation is important to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.

FirstRand Group COO Mary Vilakazi said the Spire fund had raised R100 million. “This project will be used as a template for other ICU expansions, including another ward at Charlotte Maxeke, as well as wards at Livingstone and Dora Nginza hospitals in the Eastern Cape,” she said.

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