Pretoria anaesthetists volunteer at ICUs to fight virus

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Pretoria anaesthetists volunteer at ICUs to fight virus

The group of private-practice specialists will give up their time should the units be overwhelmed

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Pretoria anaesthetist Dr Anneme de Waard is one of eight physicians in private practice who have volunteered to be on the front line of the Covid-19 crisis.
Stepping up Pretoria anaesthetist Dr Anneme de Waard is one of eight physicians in private practice who have volunteered to be on the front line of the Covid-19 crisis.
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A group of Pretoria anaesthetists have volunteered to work two-week shifts at intensive care units at a city hospital as the Covid-19 crisis sweeps across the country.    

“The spread is going to be fast,” Dr Anneme de Waard told Times Select on Monday.

The commitment to volunteer their time to treat Covid-19 patients came as health minister Zweli Mkhize announced that the number of infections had risen to 709.

While local transmissions are on the up, five people have fully recovered and two remain critically ill in intensive care at unnamed private hospitals.

De Waard said hospitals had all but halted elective surgeries amid the crisis, and that emergency cases were few and far between.

“We have decided to volunteer at the Life Groenkloof Hospital ICU because the physicians there will not be able to manage all the patients [if the pandemic spreads, forcing the admission of patients],” she added.

Eight anaesthetists will be placed on a call roster, working two weeks on and then having a two-week break in isolation.

“If you look at international news from Italy and Spain it is clear that these patients will need us. We manage the airway, intubating patients and placing them on ventilators. That is the end result when people with Covid-19 become really sick.”

We manage the airway, intubating patients and placing them on ventilators. That is the end result when people with Covid-19 become really sick.

De Waard said the staff had been doing online training in how to best treat those infected with the virus.

She downplayed the selflessness of their undertaking – and the danger it placed them in – saying that an all-hands-on-deck call was inevitable.  

“I think we are being too naïve and oblivious when we consider how many people in the country have compromised immune systems. The spread is going to be fast and we are going to have a problem on our hands,” she said.

In a bid to stay the spread of the virus, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a national lockdown from midnight on Thursday.

As part of preparations private hospital groups have begun gearing for an influx of patients and protecting those already in their care.

On Thursday, healthcare giant Netcare said all visiting hours for general wards, ICUs and high-care units will be suspended.

“In light of the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, we needed to take extraordinary measures to protect all healthcare teams and our patients who cannot be discharged,” said Dr Richard Friedland, Netcare CEO. 

Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, told Times Select their medical staff were being kept to normal shifts.

"Operationally, we are continuing to staff as usual,” he said.

The Life Healthcare Group as well as Medi-Clinic were approached for comment, but neither had responded by the time of publishing. 

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