Sunday, January 16

Is the healthcare industry ready for the Omicron variant?


FIFI PETERS: Just reflecting on the new Covid-19 cases that we are recording, they are going up and up quite fast. Yesterday South Africa registered 4,373 new cases; about 70% of them were in Gauteng and the rest spread to the other provinces.

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But here, to tell us what is happening in their hospitals, is Quinto Zunga, executive director of RH Bophelo. Quinton, thank you very much for your time. Reflecting on the rapid increase in new cases we’ve seen in recent weeks, how many of these are you seeing in your hospitals?

QUINTON ZUNGA: Thanks Fifi and thanks to your listeners. We have not yet begun to see the pressure on hospitals. I think the New Wave cases are predominantly being seen in the younger population. So gravity has not started to affect us yet and there is good capacity within the hospital. We expect it to be a slight variation, but I think there is still a long way to go and there is a lot of data to show.

FIFI PETERS: Would you say that it is too early to say that we are in the fourth wave at this stage?

QUINTON ZUNGA: It is definitely the fourth wave. Looking at the number of increases, the question is: have we reached the stage where the system is doubling and the answer is ‘not yet’? We can still cope and hopefully we can manage it proactively so that we don’t get to a point where the system cannot cope, and that’s where a coordinated approach with the government needs to start now in terms of where the pressure is.

FIFI PETERS: On Sunday, in the President’s speech at the Family Meeting, he mentioned that the hospital beds that had been prepared for the third wave would also be prepared for the fourth. I don’t know if you got that part of your statement and what that means for your business.

QUINTON ZUNGA: Yes, we get that part of the statement. Obviously the key is that we’ve been through three waves so we should improve on this. We know the capacity we can take, we know the early warning symptoms or the early warning signs, so we should be able to handle the capacity when it presents itself. What is unknown here is what it will be like and if we can use the learning from the previous waves to try to get a better result, and that is where we are starting.

Currently I think yesterday’s jump was reasonably big in Gauteng. [in particular]. Therefore, we must find a way to reduce that spread before it becomes a problem for the entire nation. Yes, the previously available capacity is also available.

FIFI PETERS: But just in the main Quinton, from a readiness point of view, what has changed at RH Bophelo since the new variant was discovered? It was followed by a host of travel bans in southern Africa from most of the world. What was your response as a hospital in terms of perhaps speeding up your readiness?

QUINTON ZUNGA: The key things have been preparing the staff, making sure you have enough staff. There was a fight for staff on the last wave. I think that has already matured.

The second thing is, obviously, that the oxygen supply was in short supply. I believe that now everyone has a reasonable supply of oxygen and we are better prepared for this situation.

The third issue is to prepare, to be able to migrate resources where the pressure is within the group. Usually you will find pressure in parts of the country and you need to be able to move your resources to handle that pressure, as well as a jump in that area; Before, it would take time to make that decision, but now we have to make that decision from the beginning. So we are prepared for that eventuality.

FIFI PETERS: While the number of new cases is increasing rapidly, it appears that so is the number of people lining up to get vaccinated in the past 24 hours. It is reported that 175,400 vaccines were administered, 60% more than the day before. Most of this was happening in Gauteng. Have you seen an increase in requests to receive the jab in your hospitals?

QUINTON ZUNGA: Have. It’s like the bad way to learn to vaccinate, if you ask me. [Chuckling] So yes, we have seen an increase in demand. There has been a lot of concern around what this new wave means. So, in a sense, we can make the best of a bad situation. I think this variant has caught everyone off guard. We are not very impressed with the communication channels on matters like this; There should be no international news before the local parties find out. But it is what it is, and we really believe that right now we should make the most of it, and vaccination is definitely the key.

FIFI PETERS: Just tell us about what is happening in other parts of the world where you operate, especially Rwanda. What is different on the ground compared to what you are seeing here in South Africa?

QUINTON ZUNGA: I think that in Rwanda the difference is probably in the way they handle the news. I think it’s much more centralized, so you have a capacity for stability. I think it’s not entirely wise to surprise everyone, especially when you start at the lowest level. We need to be more proactive with all parties. I think there is calm in Rwanda right now.

I think there are advantages and disadvantages on both sides, but I think [there is] the management of how the information is presented, the more the implication, the more actually the scientific data. So you probably feel a little awkward that with 10,000-odd active cases of the new variant we’re in this situation, and we probably wouldn’t be if there was a lot more engagement and on how to do it. deal with it.

FIFI PETERS: Since our family reunion on Sunday, has there been any compromise between you, as the private sector and government, on how best to run Omicron, should it get out of hand?

QUINTON ZUNGA: Unfortunately not much. I think everyone is still trying to find a way out, hoping it’s not so bad. We have not yet pushed so aggressively in terms of a joint mitigation project for this variant, but I think it is necessary for both the public and private sectors.

There are some things that are not working properly, and I think that more and more in terms of the public and private sector is this forum, and it is actually taking the lead here, because we know that the government is taking the lead, but the private sector is also trying to do it. things, and the joint position is not on the same page

FIFI PETERS: Very disturbing, very disturbing. However, just one last question, Quinton. It is World AIDS Day; How are we doing in that fight, given that so much attention has been paid to the Covid-19 battle in the last two years?

QUINTON ZUNGA: Oh gosh, we’ve probably backtracked a bit. I suppose that the approach, the resources that have been allocated to Covid-19 and the AIDS pandemic, which by the way is still a pandemic, have received less attention. We really need to think about AIDS in the same way: attention, focus, participation. And perhaps one hopes that by dealing with this virus, the active participation of the other virus can be inferred. I believe that the country has come a long way, but there is still much to do and we must not lose focus, given what we are currently channeling resources to.

FIFI PETERS: I agree with you. And, of course, we’ve seen that under pressure, drug companies can come up with a vaccine at lightning speed. The question therefore arises as to whether the same cannot be done in the fight against HIV / AIDS.

Quinton, we’ll leave it there for now, sir. Thanks for your time. Quinton Zunga is the CEO of RH Bophelo.


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