However, the situation is fluid, and Netcare remains on high alert to respond promptly to possible new developments. “We are deeply saddened to see the suffering of our fellow South Africans and wish that our nation and its people could have been spared this trauma, particularly in light of the hardships and loss of life already being experienced due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Friedland says. “Extensive contingency measures are in place within Netcare Group facilities and, where needed, have been implemented to provide individuals in need of medical care with the best and safest care possible even under the current circumstances. Unfortunately, the violence in certain parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng is placing additional pressure on both the public and private healthcare systems.

Continued violence in certain parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng is placing additional pressure on both the public and private healthcare systems [Image: Shutterstock].

“Like many other businesses, we have experienced some challenges due to staff shortages as a result of staff not being able to reach their place of work, however Netcare’s hospitals remain open throughout the country. We have treated a number of people for protest-related injuries, placing further pressure on an already constrained healthcare system, including emergency medical services,” he says.

He confirmed that Netcare currently has sufficient oxygen, medicines, food and water and is continuing to monitor supplies to ensure that the health of patients is in no way compromised. “We have sent a team of specialised trauma nurses to KwaZulu-Natal and have flown urgent medicines to the region, following the inability of one of our major suppliers to get stocks of medicines out to our hospitals. For now we have had to suspend vaccinations in KwaZulu-Natal.

“As a precautionary measure a few of our primary care facilities, Netcare Medicross and Netcare Prime Cure in KwaZulu-Natal have been temporarily closed. We will continue to monitor the situation to assess when it will be reasonable and safe to reopen these facilities.”

Netcare Medicross facilities that are temporarily closed include: Medicross Malvern, Medicross Bluff, Medicross Hayfields, Medicross uMhlanga, Medicross Richards Bay and Medicross Meerensee. The Netcare Prime Cure facilities that are temporarily closed are: Prime Cure Verulam, Prime Cure Prospecton, Prime Cure Smith Street, Prime Cure Bluff and Prime Cure Pinetown.

According to Dr Friedland, to support patients during this time, Netcare VirtualCare GP consultations are available with many GPs at Medicross, so that patients can consult a general practitioner over the phone or via a secure video link, either on mobile devices or computers, to keep patients in contact with doctors without the need for in-person consultations.

“It is always better to be safe than sorry if you suspect you may be experiencing a medical emergency, and in the case of COVID-19 unfortunately many patients appear to be waiting too long to access healthcare, even when they are having a medical emergency,” he added.

“If you are ever unsure of the level of medical care you need, the Netcare 911 national emergency operation centre [EOC] is equipped and ready to provide expert assistance in determining what steps may be necessary, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on 082 911.

“Netcare 911’s EOC has trained emergency medical personnel available to support callers via telehealth services remotely. This can be significant for clinical decision making and help in the co-ordination of resources to safely transport the patient to hospital where needed.”

Keeping lines of communication open

“We have employed more social workers in our hospitals to counsel our valued patients, and their loved ones. Next-of-kin to patients are encouraged to call the Netcare Family Connect Line on 0800 111 266, and one of our trained call centre professionals will facilitate a dedicated hospital representative to provide them with personal daily feedback on how their loved one in hospital is doing.

“We wish to assure you that we will continue to do the very best we can while ensuring your safety and that of our frontline heroes. We commend and thank our healthcare workers for their diligence and commitment to patients in our care in these difficult times. Despite the pressures placed on us, providing care is our calling, it is our driving purpose, and we are privileged to be of service to you at this challenging time.

“We thank you in advance for your understanding and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience that may be experienced,” concluded Dr Friedland.