Netcare says it has responded swiftly at
its Pholoso Hospital in Polokwane to implement a range of additional,
precautionary preventative COVID-19 measures after a patient died of the virus
at the facility and a staff member tested positive.  The stringent measures follow outbreaks at Netcare’s
St Augustine’s and Kingsway Hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal with prompted the group
to close parts of the facilities.

 The death of the 69-year old man at the
Pholoso Hospital was the first COVID-19 related fatality in Limpopo. The
patient who had underlying illnesses was admitted to the hospital on 7 April via
the hospital’s emergency department and was tested shortly after admission when
his temperature started spiking. The initial test came back negative, but the patient
was kept in isolation as a precautionary measure and was retested seven days
later.  The hospital says the test
results that confirmed that the man had COVID-19 were received by the hospital
shortly after he passed away.  The MEC
for Health in Limpopo, Dr Phopi Ramathuba has confirmed that virologists from
the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) and Lancet Laboratory have
launched an investigation to determine why the man initially tested negative.

Netcare says in a statement that the
extensive movement of doctors, allied healthcare workers and agency nursing
staff between healthcare facilities within Polokwane, as well as the increased
incidence of community acquired infections nationally, have recently been
identified as a potential COVID-19 risk by Netcare Pholoso Hospital.

“A number of additional measures were
carried out to safeguard patients, healthcare professionals, workers and
administrative staff across every discipline to ensure that they remained safe
and fully protected,” says Erich Bock, regional director: Netcare Hospitals.

Bock says 564 people, including staff,
doctors and allied healthcare practitioners at the hospital has so far been tested,
which is more than 90% of the target group and testing remains ongoing at the

The staff member who tested positive is in
isolation and a further 11 staff members have been placed in self-isolation
even though they are all asymptomatic. Ten of these staff members are
quarantined at a hotel in Polokwane at the expense of Netcare as they are
unable to effectively self-quarantine at home and one will self-isolate at

“In terms of patients admitted to our
facility and identified as high risk, Persons Under Investigation, (PUIs), we
have initiated a rigorous testing and track-and-trace process and out of a
total of 37 patients requiring COVID-19 testing, 30 patients have tested
negative while one tested positive. The results for the remaining six patients
in isolation are awaited. An additional 20 patients were placed in
precautionary quarantine to reduce the risk of exposure,” noted Bock.

 The following includes some of the
additional precautionary measures which were implemented at Netcare Pholoso

  •  97% of our front-line clinical staff
    members have been vaccinated against influenza. The vaccination of the
    remaining employees is ongoing.
  • The hospital has been deep-cleaned and
    completely disinfected. As an additional precaution, terminal cleaning using a
    high dosage of chlorine, followed by disinfection with the aid of ultraviolet
    disinfection robots was carried out. This process remains ongoing.
  • The hospital has secured ample stock of
    personal protective equipment (PPE) which has been distributed to staff
    members, doctors and contract service providers at the hospital.
  • The hospital re-trained over 440 healthcare
    workers, other staff members and doctors on the appropriate and correct use of
    PPE, hand hygiene and social distancing and compliance in this regard is being
    closely monitored.

The Netcare team is working in close
collaboration with the Limpopo Department of Health (LDOH) with all relevant
information being proactively shared in the interest of the community,
patients, staff members, doctors and the wider healthcare sector. Some of these
joint initiatives include:

  • a track-and-trace programme, which includes
    tracing and screening interviews with agency staff;
  • special communications to staff, allied
    health workers and doctors to gather information on possible contacts;
  • interviewing of doctors practising at
    Netcare Pholoso Hospital as well as other healthcare facilities in the area;
  • sharing lists of agency staff to ensure
    that healthcare workers, as far as possible, work at a single facility.

Commenting on the developments at the
Pholoso Hospital, Netcare’s group medical director, Dr Anchen Laubscher said
that two of the greatest challenges associated with COVID-19 are that those
infected do not always show or have any of the symptoms, and the fact that the
virus is highly infectious, notwithstanding the absence of any symptoms.

“Even in the presence of extensive and
effective infection prevention measures, any workplace or gathering of people
poses a potential risk for infection. Unfortunately, it has been shown that
COVID-19 can be transmitted by carriers before they show symptoms that can be
screened for, and where one person is contagious, the virus can very quickly
spread to others, Dr Laubscher noted.