Pressure builds for new emergency centre

The upgraded and expanded emergency centre under construction.

Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital needs a new emergency centre now more than ever due to the added pressure from Covid-19.

The R122 million project to expand the facility started last April, but the Children’s Hospital Trust must still raise some
R48 million for it.

Chantel Cooper, the trust’s CEO, said the upgrade would meet the great need for extra space and help children needing acute and emergency services.

Phase one of the emergency room project was due to be finished this month, but Covid-19 lockdown restrictions have pushed the deadline back to the end of September.

Ms Cooper said they expected phase two to start in October with the full project completed by the end of October next year.

In the meantime, a new isolation unit has built as part of the very busy current emergency centre to protect all children and staff entering the area from catching infectious diseases from each other.

The new emergency centre will have a burns treatment room, two isolation cubicles, two decontamination rooms with a separate entrance from the outside, a calming room, a child-protection room, a family counselling room, a lift from the emergency centre to operating theatres and the ICU, a separate triage area, more comfortable waiting areas for families, medical and trauma resuscitation areas next to each other, and improved staff and teaching facilities.

The hospital is using the current emergency room until the new one opens.

Dr Heloise Buys, the hospital’s head of ambulatory and emergency paediatrics, said all children and carers coming to the emergency centre were screened for Covid-19 before being separated into different risk categories.

“Then we have to make sure we separate the respiratory cases and examine them in a separate area, and we also have the Covid-19 testing tent to run to ensure the nasal swabs are sent off early to the laboratory so that the results come back quickly in order for us to know how to group the in-patients.”

Hospital spokesman Dwayne Evans said Red Cross was still seeing its full range of emergencies during lockdown – motor vehicle accidents, burns, gunshot injuries and abuse. However, now the hospital had to contend with staff catching Covid-19 and patients infected with it.

As of Tuesday this week, 146 staff and 125 patients have tested positive for Covid-19. Mr Evans said 119 of the staff had since returned to work. Most of the patients who tested positive were admitted for other conditions and the Covid-19 result were picked up through routine screenings.

Margaret Weakely, the operational manager of the Covid- 19 ward, said children with Covid-19 recovered well and few staff on the ward had been infected.

“Working on a Covid-19 ward with children, we have seen a very low infection rate in the staff on the ward.”

Dr Anita Parbhoo, the hospital’s medical manager, said the hospital had to find ways to protect staff while still providing a high level of care.

“We reduced our elective surgeries and non-essential outpatient visits to free up resources to assist with potential bottlenecks and anticipated challenges and also embrace and promote innovation at the facility.”

Click here or call 021 658 5111 if you want to support the trust’s fund-raising efforts for the emergency centre.