Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize is satisfied that there are adequate facilities to house COVID-19 patients in KwaZulu-Natal ahead of an expected spike in positive cases in the province.

Mkhize finished up his two-day visit to the province on Friday with visits Utrecht Niemeyer Memorial Hospital and the Madadeni Hospital.

“We’ve got adequate space to accommodate those who need to be accommodation and we also want to encourage people who have got other conditions like diabetes and hypertension to continue to use our hospitals. When we say we want to give attention to COVID-19, we are not saying we are not going to be treating other diseases. They are just as important,” he said in a media briefing.

“We did say that we wanted to defer the surge so that we can prepare our health facilities and this has happened. We are actually not at this point overloaded or overcrowded. We have stuck to all the commitments we have made in terms of where we are going to put hospital beds and refurbish hospitals.”

Mkhize acknowledged that there are challenges in some hospitals which the department is working to fix.

“Yes, there are pre-existing challenges in some hospitals…We are working on that. It is part of what we need to correct to improve the quality of healthcare. We will still continue to call upon our staff to continue doing the work they are doing. They must speak out: when there are conditions that are unsatisfactory, they must speak out; when there is not adequate protection, they must speak out,” he said.

“Like soldiers in a battle, they need to go into a battle well trained, well prepared and well protected. We have also sent a message to our administration that where management is shown to be lax, we must take strong action.”

Mkhize said COVID-19 case numbers are expected to continue rising in the coming weeks.

“We are still expecting that we will have another two to three weeks of a very high level of positive cases but we are really looking beyond that point. We are saying that the fact that we are seeing the numbers decreasing, we must not take that for granted. We must emphasize the need for containment measures,” he said.

The Health minister reemphasized the need for frequent handwashing and sanitizing, wearing face masks in public and social distancing.

“If we don’t, there is a huge risk that when we open up more economic activity, we are likely to get the numbers going up again,” he said.