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Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Johannesburg, 05 January 2020 – Medscheme, which is South Africa's largest health risk management services provider and a division of AfroCentric, conducted a hospital admission analysis across all provinces to compare the first Covid-19 peak in July 2020 to the current second wave. The data shows that while Eastern and Western Cape seem to be at or past their peak, KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo are showing a daily 8% average increase of hospital admissions in Week 52 of 2020.

While this data focuses on the private sector, it also correlates with data seen from the latest National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) daily hospital surveillance report which shows that nationally there have been 133 679 Covid-19 admissions, with 23 223 deaths reported from 623 facilities (373 public-sector and 250 private-sector) in all nine provinces of South Africa. Medscheme's data constitutes close to a third of total national hospital COVID admission data.

Dr Lungi Nyathi, Medscheme's Managing Executive for Clinical Risk and Advisory says, "While the increased lockdown measures will potentially help to slow the spread of the virus and ensure capacity to handle more hospital admissions, there will be continued pressure on the system in the run up to the second peak, as we all wait for the vaccines to come into the system in the second quarter of the year."

Nyathi also reiterated support for the government's efforts to access vaccines for the country. "While we hope that the vaccines will be available earlier, we note the complexity of the process and the proficient manner that the National Department of Health (NDOH) is approaching this issue. As one of the three pillars of the anticipated funding process, we support the multipronged funding approach and believe that it is the most practical approach," comments Nyathi on the health minister's recent update on the issue of the vaccines on Sunday 3 January 2021.  Medscheme and all our schemes are tracking all the advancements regarding the vaccine closely in order to ensure that members are funded for and receive the vaccine. 

When it comes to the next pressure areas, Nyathi asserts that Medscheme's Covid-19 positive hospital admissions indicate that in KwaZulu-Natal the admissions are very close to the July peak (88% in Week 52), while Limpopo has exceeded the previous peak (177% in Week 52) with Gauteng at just 59% of the previous peak in Week 52. Given how quickly and infectious both strands of the Covid-19 virus are, together with the increased social interaction activity during the holiday season as well as expected movements between the cities and provinces as the holidays draw to a close, "it is to be expected that these provinces, alongside Eastern and Western Cape provinces, will soon pierce the peak levels seen in July," continues Nyathi. Although, other provinces like Mpumalanga, North West and Free State are still less than 60% of the July peak, over the last month these three provinces saw an increase of 12% in hospital admissions in Week 52.

Nyathi believes the escalation to Level 3 of the lockdown will hopefully reduce hospital admissions, especially those that are alcohol and road accident induced. However, it is imperative that individually, each citizen continues to take the utmost care by applying the necessary precautions of social distancing and wearing masks.

"At Medscheme, our Hospital level of Care at Home offering is another major intervention that is available for Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients, where individuals can receive safe, reliable and affordable medical care services outside the traditional hospital environment in the comfort of their own home. This service brings all the essential elements of in-hospital care to the patients' home, including excellent clinical care, evidence-based protocols and state-of-the-art vital sign monitoring. Patients are monitored wirelessly, automatically and continuously to enable early identification of significant clinical change or deterioration.  This not only serves patients but reduces the burden in hospital capacity and the healthcare workforce," adds Nyathi.

Looking ahead, actuarial models predict that viral infection levels and Covid-19 positive admissions will ease between April and May across all nine provinces. Nyathi says that Medscheme has considered the various scenarios that may take place by end May 2021 and the Eastern Cape is forecast to have the highest infection level with 65% of the population infected, which will likely be followed by Free State with 50% infection rate. Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are likely to follow at 45%, with the Western Cape at 40% and the remaining provinces having infections of between 20% and 25% of their respective populations.

"With over 1 million cases and over 30 000 fatalities it is clear that the battle against Covid-19 is far from over. Nonetheless, the country needs to continue its strong efforts to limit the impact of the second wave. Every intervention helps, from responsible behaviour to access to treatment and hospitalisation, right up to sourcing and distributing the vaccines. AfroCentric strong expertise in funding, procurement and distribution, have played leading roles in these areas over the years for large portions of the private and public sector, and we are prepared to leverage it in the roll out of the vaccine. As a proud South African business, Medscheme will continue to play its role to assist in the fight against Covid-19," concludes Nyathi.

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