DURBAN – THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has revealed that it almost ran out of oxygen during the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane revealed this when she was addressing the Finance Portfolio Committee meeting in legislature this week.
Some MPLs said they were worried that the department had not given assurances that a second supplier had been found, as they feared that should a third wave emerge, the province would be caught off guard.
Giving a brief report on how they managed Covid-19, Simelane said that during the first wave, the numbers grew gradually and the department could adjust its plans, but with the second wave, infection numbers grew very rapidly.
“One of the issues we thought we might have a challenge with was the issue of oxygen – we were very close to running out of oxygen purely because we only had one service provider,” she said.
Simelane said the supplier’s management team came from Gauteng to meet department officials and a plan was put in place and, fortunately, the province did not run out of oxygen.
She disputed the allegations that at some point in December, the province had run out of beds, but said there were challenges with some facilities – Wentworth, RK Khan and Mahatma Gandhi hospitals – that had not managed their beds properly.
The DA’s Dr Imran Keeka, who was sitting in on the committee meeting, said the department reaching a point where it could have run out of oxygen was shocking.
“They are saying they have a plan and the problem will not arise again. I am not inclined to believe them and this could easily happen again. There needs to be oversight on what the department is doing,” he said.
Health Department spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa said the department was compiling its own information based on the lessons learned from the first and second waves of the pandemic.
“Some of the major challenges that were identified were late presentation of patients to health facilities, reckless usage of home remedies and reluctance by certain individuals to be isolated in hospital.
“This is why MEC Simelane has used every available platform to encourage patients to present themselves to health facilities early, to take precautions when using home remedies such as steaming and to allow themselves to be hospitalised, so that they can be within close proximity to medical intervention should the need arise.”