The Western Cape is pushing ahead with its plans to acquire its own supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Provincial health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo was briefing Parliament’s health portfolio committee with her Eastern Cape counterpart on Wednesday. “The premier, in his capacity as provincial commander of the council for COVID-19, has been engaging with suppliers and also with various other stakeholders with regard to the issue of vaccines.
“We know for sure there will be a time where there might be extra need to expand beyond some of the priorities the nation has provided for and therefore it is crucial we do that,” Mbombo told MPs.
She said they had learnt from getting TB medication, ARVs for HIV/Aids and other medicines where there had always been centralisation of the procurement process. “If something happens in regard to challenges we always make it a point that we have a plan B and that is crucial,” Mbombo said.
The move by the province comes despite Health Minister Zweli Mkhize saying last week that the National Health Department would be the sole purchaser of COVID-19 vaccines for the country. Also briefing the portfolio committee, provincial health department head Keith Cloete said the province was starting to stabilise.
Cloete said the active number of COVID-19 cases in the Cape Town metro was reaching a plateau. The Garden Route has come off the peak like the Nelson Mandela Metro where the second wave first broke out.
The Cape Winelands have started to stabilise as was the Overberg . The West Coast was the only district that was only inclining and it was expected to start declining this or next week, Cloete said.
He told the MPs that the province has 7693 acute operation public sector beds inclusive of general and critical care beds for COVID-19 patients. There were 3323 Covid patients in health facilities with 1889 being in public hospitals and 1434 in private hospitals.
Cloete noted that they have experienced significant reduction in alcohol-related trauma. “It is essential to maintain a strong focus on behaviour change to ensure containment for the six months while we gear up to provide access to vaccines.”
Cloete told the MPs that the province has recorded 92 deaths of health care workers to date and that there were 80 88 cumulative infections. He also said there were 1029 active cases with 98 being doctors, 432 nurses, 23 radiographers, 7 pharmacists, and 459 other categories.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape said it was on the downward trend in terms of Covid-19 infections with the Joe Gqabi that has its cases on the rise. Acting provincial department head Sibongile Zungu said Joe Gqabi District was the last to peak in the first wave and again entered the second wave last.
Zungu said they were concerned about the Nelson Mandela Metro and Sarah Baartman District, which were major contributors, which accounted for between 70 to 80% of the new cases since December. “The rest of districts under pressure are Buffalo City Metro, Joe Gqabi and Chris Hani District to some extent.”
Zungu also said they were concerned with the availability of beds in Alfred Nzo District, Buffalo City Metro and OR Tambo District. “As of yesterday (Wednesday), these three were showing pressure in general beds,” Zungu said.
“In Alfred Nzo, Joe Gqabi and Nelson Mandela Bay metro, there is some pressure that we are seeing there in terms of critical care beds,” she said.
Zungu told the MPs that the districts of Alfred Nzo, Amathoe, Joe Gqabi and Sarah Baartman did not have designated ICU facilities. “However, the province has made provision of critical beds in certain designated district hospitals, equipped them with oxygen and high flow equipment and better staffing levels so that citizens of the province can travel to critical care beds within two hours with an ambulance.”
Zungu said there were 1732 admissions in their health facilities as at January 11. A total of 1524 were in general wards, 144 in ICU beds and 64 in high care. She said 855 of the patients were on oxygen whether they were in the high care or general wards while 76 were being ventilated.