St Augustine's Hospital ramps up safety measures after 66 people test positive

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St Augustine’s Hospital ramp up safety measures after 66 test positive

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed that 66 people at the St Augustine’s hospital had tested positive.

St Augustine's Hospital ramps up safety measures after 66 people test positive

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The St Augustine’s Hospital in Berea Durban has had to buckle down and look at ramping up precautionary measures after 66 people tested positive there — 48 of them staff members.

“We are concerned about developments at St Augustine’s Hospital. 66 tested positive over the past few days. About 48 of them are staff. The Provincial dept [department]. is engaging the hospital, with a view to closing parts of the hospital down,” said Mkhize. 

Ramped up precautionary measures for St Augustine’s Hospital  

These measures include:

  • The hospital’s emergency department was closed on the evening 2 April 2020 and all planned surgery and admissions cancelled until further notice;
  • The process to completely decontaminate and disinfect the entire hospital through deep cleaning began on 2 April and remains ongoing. As an additional precaution, terminal cleaning using a high dosage of chlorine, followed by disinfection with the aid of ultra-violet disinfection robots is being done. This will be completed by tomorrow;
  • There are a total of 1 982 people working on the campus of Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital, inclusive of healthcare workers, nurses, contractors and doctors. More than half of these individuals have already been swabbed. Thus far, a total of 504 people have tested negative and we are awaiting the results of a further 318 people. These results are reported on a daily basis to the head of the KZN Department of Health’s task team;
  • As a further precaution, Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital has been contacting all patients who were treated at the emergency department or admitted into the hospital as from 1 March. This is to determine if any of these patients require any further investigation or testing;
  • A dedicated 24-hour communication channel to manage queries as well as to answer other concerns which our patients may have has been set up; 
  • Individuals who have visited Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital or have been in hospital since 1 March are welcome to contact us on our 24-hour helpline on 0800 111 266 if they have not as yet heard from the hospital;
  • Symptomatic screening of all persons working in the hospital is continuing on a daily basis, as some individuals could be asymptomatic but start showing symptoms in the following days. Where indicated by the screening, swabbing and testing is then carried out. The aim of this is to identify, as early as possible, any persons who may be infected, in order to prevent the spread of the virus;
  • All screening and testing is being done in close consultation and collaboration with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health; and
  • The Netcare clinical team is working closely with Professor Salim Karim, a special adviser to the Minister of Health, and a team of epidemiology and infectious diseases specialists from the University of KZN, to fully investigate the underlying cause and nature of this outbreak. 

St Augustine’s Hospital provides an update on the numbers 

According to a statement, released by the hospital on Wednesday 8 April, there have been a total of four deaths in relation to the deadly disease at the hospital.

Chief Executive Officer of the Netcare Group, Dr Richard Friedland said that the hospital currently has 15 pre-existing community acquired patients with the disease, who are in isolation units. 

“Of these patients, we can confirm that one person has already recovered and tested negative and is expected to be discharged shortly,” it said.  

Friedland also provided some clarity into the number of staff members who had tested positive at the hospital. He confirmed that 47 staff had tested positive, rather than Mkhize’s initial number of 48. 

“Of the staff and doctors tested, we confirm that 47 people who are connected with our hospital have tested positive. Of the 47 positive cases, 33 are in self-isolation and a further 14 are being accommodated by Netcare to ensure that they are able to safely self-quarantine. Of those who tested positive, one person has since tested negative following his period of self-quarantine and has since returned to work,” he added. 

Those infected do not always have symptoms 

While citing challenges in determining positive cases, Friedland said two of the greatest challenges associated is that those infected do not always have symptoms, and that it is highly infectious. 

“For this reason, among other precautions, Netcare took the extraordinary measure some weeks ago of suspending visiting and public entry to its hospitals except for in specific exceptional circumstances and closed its pharmacies and coffee shops,” he said. 

“The ideal would be if all healthcare facilities could test, and not just screen, every person coming into our hospitals, and to do that on a repeat basis as some may at first test negative.”