Hangars into field hospitals

Keith Blake, Ottery

This is an open letter to the City of Cape Town, big business and the army in the Western Cape.

Firstly we have to thank officials under the leadership of Premier Alan Winde for the initiative to install over 800 beds as a medical facility to house Covid-19 patients.

If projections are true, we are set to face a tsunami of patients.

The Youngsfield Military Base is next to where I live in Ottery, and, if memory serves me correctly from visits years ago to this base, it has massive hangars – you feel like Gulliver in Lilliput.

Why don’t the authorities, with the army’s consent, make these hangars into field hospitals?

The City can ask big businesses to adopt spaces in these hangars and they can sponsor beds and medical facilities to house patients, especially on the Cape Flats where Youngsfield is.

What is that saying? Don’t be caught with your trousers around your ankles when you have to run.

Jandré Bakker, Department of Transport and Public Works spokesman, responds:

The Department of Transport and Public Works is responsible for the identification of quarantine and isolation facilities during the Covid-19 national state of disaster. We are also supporting the Department of Health, where needed, with the establishment of field hospitals.

A great many factors are weighed up when considering which sites could possibly be used as field hospitals.

Various models are used to determine the extent of likely future needs and the best locations for meeting those needs. Then possible sites are visited and inspected by the Department of Health to determine their suitability. Considerations include the condition of the infrastructure, its suitability for conversion into a field hospital at reasonable cost, proximity to other hospitals and field hospitals, safety, security, facility access, availability of parking, and proximity to transport routes.

This work is taking place in partnership with different state agencies, all spheres of government, and the private sector. For example, we have asked the SAPS whether we may use its training academy in Oudtshoorn for quarantine and isolation purposes, while the SANDF has been asked whether it is willing to make some of its facilities available (should it be needed) for additional hospital beds. Our private sector partners have made it possible to establish an 850-bed hospital in the Cape Town International Convention Centre, a 700-bed quarantine and isolation site at a PetroSA facility, and a 300-bed isolation facility at an Old Mutual facility, free of rent. These are but a few examples.

We thank you for your suggestion. We assure you that we are doing everything in our power to meet
the challenge of Covid-19.