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'Each successive wave has proven to be more severe' – Netcare


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'Each successive wave has proven to be more severe' – Netcare

Netcare Moot Hospital
Photo by Creamer Media

22nd October 2021

By: News24Wire


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Netcare treated almost twice as many Covid-19 patients in its hospitals between April and September this year compared to the same time in 2020 when South Africa was battling the peak of the first wave.

The private hospitals group, which published its trading update for the year ended 30 September 2021, said it treated 54 772 Covid-19 patients in the six months to 30 September. It admitted 23 212, and 26% of those admitted ended up in intensive-care units (ICU) or high-care units.


In comparison, in the six months to 30 September 2020, Netcare treated 28 533 Covid-19 patients, including a small number of cases presented before 1 April 2020. It admitted 12 756, and 27.1% of those were eventually transferred to ICU or high-care units. Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, Netcare 25.6% of people admitted to Netcare's hospitals ended up in ICU or high care.

Each wave gets worst


Netcare's number suggests that the third wave of Covid-19 infections in SA, which peaked around July to August, was more brutal than the second wave. The second wave peaked around December 2020 to January 2021, which fell on the first half of Netcare's financial year.

Netcare admitted 18 189 Covid-19 patients in that first half, 27% more than in the second half ended on 30 September. It also treated over 12 000 or 29% less Covid-19 patients overall.

"Each successive wave has proven to be more severe than the preceding wave, as evidenced by the number of Covid-19 admissions during H2 2021 exceeding those of H1 2021, which in turn exceeded those of H2 2020," wrote Netcare in the trading update.

The company said in July 2021, it experienced the highest level of Covid-19 patient admissions since the start of the pandemic, especially in Gauteng.

Learning more about Covid-19 and accommodating non-Covid-19 activity

But Netcare said the longer it has had to deal with the virus, the more it learns how to handle these cases. As a result, the length of the hospital stay of Covid-19 patients is now reducing.

So, even though there was a substantial increase in Covid-19 admissions during the third wave, the group could reserve only 52% of beds for Covid-19 patients. At the peak of the first wave, Netcare allocated 80% of its beds to Covid-19 patients.

And things are slowly going back to some level of normalcy. The group said it experienced a "gradual return" of non-Covid-19 activity in October. The company said acute hospital occupancies improved to 58% in the six months to end-September compared to 53.8% in the first half of 2021 and 42.8% in the second half of 2020.

In the past, it had to temporarily suspend elective surgeries across its network of hospitals during the different waves of infections. It wasn't taking any of those patients from mid-December 2020 to mid- February 2021 and again from mid-June 2021 until mid-August 2021.

Netcare said that because of the short recovery periods between Covid-19 waves, it is taking longer for its revenue and profit to recover to pre-Covid-19 levels. Although its revenue for the year ended on 30 September is expected to increase by between 11% and 12%, the group has to foot a new bill for Covid-19 related costs such as personal protection equipment, which is eating away at its profit margins.


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