Covid-19: The Red Cross Children’s Hospital fears rise in respiratory cases

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Cape Town – The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital says it is expecting an increasing number of children to be diagnosed with respiratory diseases during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The hospital usually experiences a busy time during this season, which it calls the paediatric surge, and is currently preparing for an overbearing increase due to the virus.

The hospital’s emergency centre and paramedical services head, Heloise Buys, said: “This time is the busiest period of the year in the hospital.

“Acute respiratory diseases prevalent during surge season remain the biggest killers of children under the age of five, especially those living in overcrowded and smoky environments.

“Our hospital beds are full of patients suffering from seasonal diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia.”

Buys said the emergency centre is the initial area where all new patients enter and an escalation is expected during the Covid-19 period.

“We are particularly concerned for children with weakened immune systems who could be more vulnerable to contracting the virus. The Covid-19 pandemic has made life more complicated for all of us, and preparation is key to deal with what is to come,” she said.

The expected increase of patients, particularly in the emergency centre, has meant that the expansion and upgrade of this area has been so much more imperative.

Phase 1 of the emergency centre’s upgrade is almost complete and phase 2 will begin in September this year.

The new Child Protection Room at the centre will also become critical for children who have experienced violence and abuse.

Sebastian van As, head of the trauma division at the emergency centre said there has been a change in the nature of the injuries of children who were being admitted to the centre during lockdown.

Van As said: “Traffic-related injuries are reduced, but while children are confined to their homes they are more at risk of being burnt by open fires or boiling liquids as they play in and around the kitchen. Tragically, there has also been an increase in the number of children being admitted with injuries as a result of abuse.”

He said injuries as a result of abuse are related to increased tension in the home due to frustration, financial worries or stress.

Hospital chief executive Matodzi Mukosi said that the country’s public health system had always been under severe strain largely due to the high burden of infectious diseases and trauma.

“The upgraded emergency centre will provide a much-needed facility to deal with the large volume of patients requiring acute care in a child-friendly environment,” she added.

The cost of the emergency centre’s upgrade was R122 million and almost R70m has been raised to date.

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Cape Argus

By Staff Reporter


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