STATEMENT ABOUT WORK OF THE EC GOVERNMENT TO CONTAIN AND MITIGATE COVID-19

Members of the media good morning. When the sixth administration came into office we made three commitments with regards to the apex priority of health. These were:

• Investing to improve the quality of our healthcare infrastructure
• Investing on technological advanced diagnostic equipment and
• Investing to resource our healthcare facilities with adequate personnel

We made these commitments to build on the significant improvements in life expectancy that we inherited from the fifth administration which confirmed that in our province people were living longer and healthier lives.

We did not anticipate that this year a pandemic in the form of the corona virus will visit our province and heighten the need to speed up the refurbishment of healthcare facilities that we had identified for a facelift. Thus when we started the fight against this pandemic 5 months ago we outlined a strategy that had four pillars which were:

• Containing the spread of the virus
• Investing in sustainable solutions
• Protecting the vulnerable and the poor and
• Rejuvenating the provincial economy to secure the future.

Investing on Sustainable Solutions

The pillar that relates to investing in sustainable solutions is meant to ensure that beyond the Covid-19 pandemic we have healthcare facilities that inspire confidence and give hope to patients and their families that they will heal from their sicknesses when they are in our facilities.

For far too long the rural masses of our people in particular have been receiving healthcare services in facilities that were not conducive for the provision of quality healthcare. Even worse our healthcare workers had to endure working in shabby healthcare facilities. I have seen some of these health facilities with my own eyes. It still boggles my mind how they maintained their status as healthcare facilities with their horribly state of infrastructure decay.

Today, we decided to host our weekly Covid-19 media briefing away from the seat of the Provincial Government in Bhisho, with the aim of taking the media on a progress tour of the sites where we are doing the construction work of refurbishing our healthcare facilities to fulfil the commitment we made to our people at the start of the sixth administration. As leadership we are elected to find solutions to the challenges of our people, thus we had to reprioritise budgets within the administration to raise funds for the refurbishment of our healthcare facilities.
We identified a total of 86 refurbishment projects across all six Districts and the two Metros with a combined value of R594.7 million that would guarantee us 2458 Covid-19 beds. To perform this important task, we consciously awarded 93 contracts to EC based contractors for refurbishment of 67 Health Facilities across the province. By doing this we are fulfilling our stated commitment of affirming local suppliers using our procurement muscle; we are encouraging circulation of the rand within our province; we are contributing to the growth of black owned SMME construction companies in particular and we are ensuring localization of jobs.

To date 27 healthcare infrastructure projects with a value of R43.7 million have been completed and they provide us with 706 Covid-19 isolation beds across the province. For purposes of this media briefing we will elaborate on projects that we are implementing here in the OR Tambo District.

Firstly, this District accounts for the majority of our population in the Eastern Cape and has the bulk of health infrastructure backlogs in our province. So we had to intervene decisively to change the health infrastructure landscape in this
District.

We have completed nine projects in the OR Tambo District and they form part of the 27 projects with a value of R152 million that we earmarked for this particular District. The completed 9 projects with a combined value of R14.2 million are in Zithulele Hospital, St Barnabas Hospital, Isilimela Hospital, Mthatha General Hospital, St Elizabeth Hospital and Bambisana Hospital and these have given us 130 beds and 20 High Care beds. Importantly through these projects 89 people mainly young people and women were employed.

There are 18 outstanding projects at various stages of construction in this District with a value of R140.7 million and upon completion they will provide us with an additional 379 Covid-19 isolation beds. Through these remaining 18 projects we will create 224 jobs that will again benefit young people and women in the main.

These projects are in various health facilities including Dr Malizo Mpehle Hospital, Nessie Knight Hospital, Canzibe Hospital, St Lucy’s Hospital and Mthatha Airport Hanger field hospital among others. Apart from preparing the Mthatha Airport Hanger for a field hospital, we are no longer proceeding with the initial plans to roll out a massive field hospital programme in light of the decrease in new infections and people requiring hospitalization. We will however re-direct resources to improve capacity in our existing health facilities.

The health facility that is hosting us today Sir Henry Elliot Hospital is part of the projects that are under construction. We invested R5.8 million in this facility for the rehabilitation of an unused building to give us (96 Beds with 15 High Care beds), R6.8 million for plumbing, drainage and access roads including ramps linked to the 96 bed repair works and we availed an additional R2.7 million for the construction of a mortuary for Covid-19 cases. All the work I am referring to is progressing very well at this facility and across the District.

As this sixth administration we committed to ensure that there is equally distribution of socio-economic development in all the Districts of our province because of a skewed development that is concentrated in the two Metros due to the spatial planning of the apartheid regime. Our health infrastructure refurbishment is reaching all the Districts of our province because there are people who are yearning for healthcare services in all Districts.

ALFRED NZO

In Alfred Nzo we are investing R45.5 million to do refurbishment work at Madzikane ka Zulu Hospital
Mt Ayliff Hospital, Taylour Bequest Hospital, Greenville Hospital and Siphethu Hospital. These projects will give us 130 beds.

AMATHOLE

In Amathole we are investing R66 million for refurbishments at Nompumelelo Hospital, S.S Gida,
Victoria Hospital, Ngqamakhwe Community Heath Centre, Butterworth Hospital, Emadwaleni Hospital, Winterberg Hospital, Tafalofefe Hospital and Adelaide Hospital. These project will give us 384 beds.

BUFFALO CITY

In Buffalo City Metro we have invested R73.3 million to perform refurbishment work in the old Cecilia Makhiwane Hospital building, Grey Hospital, Frere Hospital, Nokqubela Hospital, Duncan Village CHC and Bhisho Hospital. From these projects we will get 358 beds.

CHRIS HANI

In Chris Hani we are investing R53.5 million to repair work and renovations at the Frontier Hospital, All Saints Hospital, Glen Grey Hospital, Hewu Hospital, Komani Hospital, Dordrecht Hospital Mjanyana Hospital, and Cala Hospital.
These projects will yield 436 beds.

JOE GQABI

In Joe Gqabi we have invested R107.6 million for rehabilitation work at the Maclear Hospital, Empilisweni Hospital, Aliwal North Hospital, Mlamli Hospital, Burgersdorp Hospital, Jamestown Hospital, Steynsburg Hospital and Lady Grey Hospital. These projects will bring to 146 beds to our pipeline of beds.

NELSON MANDELA

In Nelson Mandela Metro we have invested R58.5 million for rehabilitation at the Dora Nginza Hospital, Empilweni TB Hospital and Osmond Hospital. These projects will add 397 beds.

SARAH BAARTMAN

In Sarah Baartman we invested R38 million to upgrade health facilities at the Midlands Hospital, Humansdorp Hospital, Joubertina Hospital, Willowmore Hospital, Marjorie Parish hospital, Sawas Memorial Hospital, Aberdeen Hospital and Sundays Valley Hospital. These projects will contribute 78 beds.

Of the 86 projects under construction, 79 projects with a total value of R408.1 million were appointed and managed using only the Department of Public Works in-house professionals. This has saved government a massive amount of R94 million on consultant fees. We are going to continue to capacitate the Department of Public Works with in-house expertise to be a fit for purpose vehicle to deliver and maintain public infrastructure in our province.

Through this phenomenal work we are doing, we are finally closing the chapter of poor healthcare infrastructure in our province and particularly in this District that blessed us with many icons of our struggle for liberation such as Mama Mandikezela Mandela, Tata Oliver Tambo and Tata Nelson Mandela.

Our icons dedicated all their lives sacrificing and fighting the apartheid regime for nothing else but for the betterment of the lives of the marginalised people of our country many of whom live in the rural areas of our province in Districts such as OR Tambo. The greatest honour we can bestow to these icons is to work hard every day for nothing else but to deliver on our socio-economic development commitments to the masses of our people. I have emphasised to leadership that this is not too much to ask from all of us who are in positions of responsibility, and this is not an insurmountable task to achieve. All we need to do is to use the public purse prudently for what it is intended for.

Ndizixelela umhla nezolo inkokheli ukuba makhe soyikeni kwaye sihloniphe into esiyiphathiswe ngabantu beliphondo. Kwisiggibo ngasinye esisenzayo masikhe sibuzeni ukuba izakubayintoni inzuzo yesosigqibo kubantu beliphondo, singabuzi ukuba izakubayintoni inzuzo yesigqibo kwiziqu zethu.

Developments on Covid-19

Let me now highlight a few developments on the work we are doing on Covid-19 . We are seeing a steady increase in the number of recoveries which are at 94 % meaning 78 862 people recovered from the virus. All Districts of our province and the two metros have recovery rates above 90 %. There has been a steady decline in active cases from about 15 000 on the 8th of July to 2627 on the 16th of August.

The remaining active cases that are mainly concentrated in the two metros of Buffalo City (550) and Nelson Mandela Metro (694). We continue to see consistent improvements in testing with 91.3 % of results available within 72 hours. What is even more fascinating about the tests that were done is the significant drop in the positivity rate from 29.7 % on the 11th of August to 18.4 % on the 16th of August. We however remain highly concerned with the case fatality rate in our province which saw the loss of 70 lives in the past 24 hours. These fatalities are due to co-morbidities, with diabetes and hypertension the leading causes of death among patients who tested positive for Covid-19. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased during this difficult time. May they find strength to heal from their losses.

Thirty-six percent (36%) of the fatalities occurred in seven hospitals which are Frere, Life St. Dominics, Mthatha Regional, Dorah Nginza, Netcare Greenacres, Life Beacon Bay and Livingstone hospitals. The PMU has identified 25 Hospitals for Bulk Tank Oxygen supply as oxygen has been identified as a critical resource in saving the lives of Covid-19 patients. The Installation of Bulk Oxygen Tanks here at Sir Henry Elliot Hospital has been completed. It is also important to report that medicine availability for covid-19 in our province is at 84.7 %, while overall PPE availability is at 78.8 %. We are in good standing.

We have procured 143 ventilators that have been distributed in our health facilities. These include 50 ventilators that we received from US government as a humanitarian donation to save lives during this pandemic. Eleven on the US donated ventilators have already been installed in Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital. Indeed, the donation by the US government adds impetus to our fight against this global pandemic in our shores. These are the kinds of partnerships we need with first world countries to address even other pressing challenges of socio-economic development beyond covid-19 to create a better world.

We also welcome the rollout of a new innovation in the form of None Invasive Breathing system that is being piloted in our province and in KZN.

These essential supplies are in addition to the 1 951 general ward beds which will be fully delivered by end September, 121 ICU beds, 130 High Care beds that have been delivered to health facilities around the province and the 510 Oxygen flowmeters that would be fully delivered by the end of September 2020.

We are also resourcing our health facilities with personnel who have to care for patients and in this regard we have filled 7 446 positions out of the 7 656 posts ring-fenced for COVID-19. We recently recruited 435 Professional Nurses; and 38 Social Workers. Eight vacant critical SMS posts have been filled in the Department to stabilise leadership both at Head Office and Districts with a further 17 posts already advertised and in the selection pipeline. With all this leadership personnel in our hospitals and Districts we do not anticipate to hear horrific stories of patients who are left un-attended and who are fed unhealthy meals. We expect leaders to make our hospitals functional and act decisively on any cases of patient neglect.

Healing the wounds of covid-19

The Provision of Psycho-Social Support Services in all affected communities for individuals and families affected by covid-19 is progressing very well. We have activated 175 Response Teams for provision of Psychosocial Support Services in all Districts and already 175 people received counselling services and 311 people were people provided with psycho-social services in the communities. Many of the people who have passed on from covid-19 were bread winners and left behind vulnerable family members. Our teams are assessing 224 cases for Social Relief Distress.

Persistent risks and mitigation plans

The SASSA grant pay points are the challenge that threaten to reverse the work we have done to manage the spread of this virus. Ifuna ukusikhisa amanzi nge emele evuzayo landlela zibhatalwa ngayo izibonelelo. We have directed our PMU team to engage the South African Post Office to discuss poor infrastructure and shortage of money for paying beneficiaries of the grants.

Funerals also remain a risk area and we applaud the adherence of many families and communities to the Covid19 regulations governing funerals.

To date 350 out of 1000 Clergy were trained on funeral protocols and the South African Council of Churches is monitoring compliance. We are also speedily standardising the availability of TLBs in municipalities to provide the service of digging graves that are dug by community members under normal circumstances.

Over the past few weeks we have observed the emergence of attitudes of disobeying the lockdown regulations by some young people who participate in sports activities. Sports activities remain prohibited in our province. The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture will work closely with community police forums to promote adherence to regulations in communities.

Level two 2 and its implications

On Sunday the President announced that the country is moving to level two of the lockdown. This means easing more restrictions to re-ignite the economy and return to operations for a number of sectors.

The education sector for instance is expected to receive learners on 24th and 31st
August. School Support Teams and School Management Teams are collaborating to manage the pandemic at school sites. Water, sanitation, PPE, Nutrition and Transport are in place for the return of learners to schools. However, there are still unresolved issues around the number of scholars to be transported which DoE and DoT are working hard to resolve issues before the 24th August.

Psychosocial services are in place for learners, educators and other categories of employees. We received 5608 comorbidity applications from teachers and we approved 2230, while 589 applications have been declined. The remaining 2763 are pending. The teachers whose comorbidity applications have been approved will work from home to assist the Assistant Teacher who will be teaching in their place. Consultations are underway in the ELRC regarding the recruitment of Assistant Teachers for which Provincial Treasury has allocated R341m.

Now that the number of new infections is subsiding, recoveries above 90 % and our hospitals no longer under pressure we support the lifting of the ban on liquor sales and tobacco products.

The onus is now on the people who use these products to use them knowing fully well that we still have a virus in our midst which requires people to behave in a manner that assist us to prevent a second wave of infections.

As they indulge in their products we urge them to adhere to Regulations and health protocols such as not sharing cigarettes, not drinking from same glass and discourage them from hosting drinking sprees. These two products have a potential of giving us a new wave of infections if they are misused. We unequivocally advice people who have comorbidities to stay far away from alcohol and tobacco products for a while longer. This virus is vicious to people with comorbidities, therefore they should not use any products that may affect their health status at the moment.

Should we observe the slightest spike in trauma cases that are related to alcohol and new infections in our province we will not hesitate to call for another round of tighter restrictions on these products. The behaviour of producers, sellers and consumers of these products will determine whether they continue to be sold on not during this pandemic.

We are activating law enforcement officers to be on high alert during level 2 on our roads and in our communities to enforce compliance on liquor sale and consumption regulations. There is no doubt in our minds that the relaxation of regulations on liquor will result in some people starting where they left off with their misdemeanours of terrorising women and communities through their criminal conduct. I implore the police to act swiftly against reported incidents of violence against women during this level 2.

I also wish to commend the SAPS for their breakthrough in cases of stock theft in Qumbu. Communities should be their own first line of defence against perpetrators of such crimes and should work with the police identify stock thieves. Developments on the recent killings in Ngcobo are also noted. We will soon establish a multi-stakeholder team of lawenforcement agencies to deal with public property grabbing by syndicates in Mthatha. Akho kwazenzele into oyithandayo kweliphondo.

Ends.

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