Inside This State-Of-The-Art South African COVID-19 Hospital

80 professionals have stepped forward as volunteers to bring one of SA’s most ambitious COVID-19 critical care projects to fruition.

Kirsten Curtis |

In a game-changing move for South African healthcare, a hospital developed by 80 professionals, comprising of actuaries, engineers, doctors, architects, project specialists and others who’ve been toiling behind the scenes since early March to put together blueprints for a dedicated, state-of-the-art, fully equipped and staffed, emergency and critical care COVID-19 testing and treatment hospital.

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The group also includes individuals who have been involved in the integrated building and commissioning of private and public hospitals over the past 40 years and have volunteered their expertise and time as they are, without exception, committed to saving lives.

And now, the blueprints are ready and waiting, and MH got a first-hand look at what the life-saving project will look like.

The projected medical facility will be named the Cecilia Makiwane Gallagher Critical Care Hospital, in recognition of South Africa and the continent’s ­first black registered professional nurse, who qualified in 1908, and went on to become a South African healthcare pioneer and human rights campaigner. It will be equipped up to high care or critical care specifications.

The hospital, has been earmarked for development in Midrand and is geared to operate as a dedicated critical care facility for COVID-19 patients. It will initially have 524 beds and is designed to be upscaled to 1 178 beds, without the need to build a second duplicate infrastructure.

What’s more? The hospital can be built in just four weeks following an international model, used in the United Kingdom by the Nightingale Hospital. With the project in Midrand modified for a South African context. The hospital will also be decommissioned at the end of the period, when there is no longer a need for the COVID-19 facility.

“We operate in a very different environment to the UK and other first world environments, and have to operate with limited resources and a shortage of highly trained medical and nursing professionals who will be essential for a facility such as this,” says Dr Johan Pretorius. Dr Pretorius is the brainchild of the project and a medical doctor and director of the not-for-profit Universal Healthcare Foundation.

Once decommissioned, all capital and reusable goods will be donated to the National Department of Health for redeployment within the public sector to assist the Government in their plans and objectives for National Health Insurance.

All indications suggest that there are dire days ahead in the fight against COVID-19

Dr Pretorius said that actuaries, who are part of the team, have provided detailed analyses on the pandemic, including the experiences of other countries, and the available infrastructure in South Africa. “All indications suggest that there are dire days ahead in the fight against COVID-19, unless South Africans band together to take swift and drastic action in preparing for the peak of the pandemic.

“Based on our projections, we are certain that we are going to run out of critical care beds in South Africa in the coming months. The Cecilia Makiwane Gallagher Critical Care Hospital, which will add more critical care beds for really ill COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalisation, is in our view of vital importance and extremely urgent,” he adds.

The hospital will feature some major tech, too. An oxygen and medical gas plant will be set up at the facility to allow for uninterrupted high flow oxygen without the requirement for cylinders. “Seriously ill hospitalised patients require uninterrupted high flow oxygen, and may require respiratory support, either with continuous positive pressure (CPAP) machines, or in the worst of cases, full intubation and ventilation in a critical care facility, of which we have a dire shortage,” says Dr Pretorius.

The aim is for the hospital to be fully operational by the time South Africa reaches the peak of the pandemic, which Dr Pretorius estimates would be in July/August 2020.

While negotiations are ongoing, it is proposed that the hospital could be funded as part of a private-public partnership between Government and the Universal Healthcare Foundation and its fundraising efforts in the private sector. The Universal Foundation will also work closely with Business South Africa, the private and public sectors,  and the Solidarity Fund.

“We believe this facility can potentially save thousands of lives during the pandemic. That is why we have put together a plan to operate a sophisticated hospital facility with a dedicated critical care capability, and with flexibility to scale up or down the number of beds as required.”

Here are some mind-blowing facts on the new facility, which is said to be accessible to a large cross section of South Africans from all walks of life.

An envisioned hospital bed setup at the proposed facility.
  • All beds in the facility will be equipped up to High Care/Critical Care specifications from the outset.
  • It will include additional medical support services, which include:
    • in-hospital pharmacy
    • in-hospital pathology laboratory
    • in-hospital radiology area with ultrasound, X-ray and CT scanner equipment
    • out-patient triage and testing area
  • The highly contagious environment requires all proper infection control measures to be in place, including ICU hospital-rate flooring that can be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Full infection control measures have therefore been incorporated.
  • Costing models include the procurement and supply of full personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff, and the necessary “donning and doffing” areas for clinical staff.
  • Due to the short period in which the facility needs to be commissioned, there will be contractors working 24 hours, seven days a week, for approximately one month.

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