Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says it is important that the National Department of Health stay ahead of the COVID-19 infection curve when planning interventions across the country.

Mkhize was speaking on the side of visits to the Nasrec COVID-19 field hospital and the newly renovated Lenasia South District Hospital on Monday

“What we are dealing with is a situation where as a Department we must stay ahead of the surge. We are watching and looking at the trends and certainly Gauteng is at the top of the rate of infection. KwaZulu-Natal is taking over (as the second highest COVID-19 province). We are going to be discussing with them how to move ahead so they don’t get caught up with the numbers,” Mkhize said.

“It should be possible to make sure that for the patients they admit, they don’t have a challenge with beds and with oxygen. With all of that, I am quite comfortable with the approach. Our clinicians are on top of their game and they have got good enough experience.”

The Nasrec visit was to establish the progress in placing additional beds at the facility.

“Today, we are seeing how things are tying up in terms of additional beds available so that no one should be turned away at the gate and told there is no bed available for them…I also think that the reduction of trauma patients is a huge advantage for us and will help us deal with the next few weeks. We will be going around to make sure Gauteng is able to show readiness,” Mkhize said.

“The issue of oxygen is becoming increasingly important in the first line treatment of COVID-19. We have had to increase the supply of oxygen. There are areas where we have the fitting of oxygen pipes – that is on schedule. It’s a matter of intervention.”

Answering questions from the media about interventions in Eastern Cape, Mkhize said a team has been sent to the province to assist in addressing any issues in the province’s healthcare system.

“COVID-19 has put a lot of pressure on the best health services in the world. It should be fair to accept that we would also get our fair share of the strain. The Eastern Cape has always had a problem: they’ve been struggling with the resources; they’ve been struggling with the historical underdevelopment of the health system; the deterioration of infrastructure; and the migration of health officials,” he said.

“We have sent a team to analyse all the problems. They gave us a report last week. We want to see the basic things being sorted. Hospitals must be cleaned up. If there are people who have been suspended indefinitely, they need to be removed, fired or reinstated. If there are shortages of staff, they need to bring additional staff on board.”

Mkhize will be visiting the province later this week.