The Gauteng health department says a temporary structure currently being set up at the Nasrec Expo Centre to house coronavirus patients will be ready next week.
Health MEC Bandile Masuku says 500 beds will initially be made available for patients who need to self-isolate or be quarantined.
“This temporary site is going to be able to deal with isolation and quarantining, and (if needed) we will be able to put up also almost 250 to 300 bedded ICU or hospital beds that we might actually require,” said the MEC.
Masuku gave journalists a tour of the make-shift facility on Tuesday, which was divided into numerous units, with a completed one comprising of a bed, a sink, a television and a shower.
Nasrec CEO Craig Newman said the facility had huge capacity but were taking the lead from the health authorities.
“We can build exponentially as the need requires. We pray that the need never requires us to get to a high level,” said Newman.
The country has implemented a lockdown and instituted mass door-to-door screenings to try to slow down the spread of the virus, while also having to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
“We want to have structures we will be able to use after the pandemic, not structures we are going to destroy,” said Masuku.
He said the government chose to use existing resources instead of building a lot of temporary structures.
The MEC explained that this was an opportunity to use hospitals and wards that were no longer working, as well as those the province had been planning to get operational.
Masuku said a decision had been taken to no longer use Steve Biko Academic Hospital as the main Covid-19 centre, but rather the Tshwane District Hospital instead, which would be dedicated to treating affected patients.
“In terms of capacity, we had to create more beds, and now we have one hospital able to handle the load for Tshwane,” said Masuku.
He said the provincial government was hoping to put up several other structures to deal with the pressure it is facing. These included boosting capacity at George Mukhari, Jubilee, Kopanong and Baragwanath hospitals.
The health MEC said the government also wanted to reach out to B&B owners in Soweto and across Johannesburg to assist them in turning their accommodation facilities into areas that could be used for quarantine and self-isolation. He said this would be a way to offer support to those hardest hit by the pandemic in that industry.
Speaking at a separate engagement, the launch of the Ekurhuleni Food Bank at the Springs fresh produce market on the East Rand on Tuesday, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said they had secured more space for Covid-19 patients in the province.
“We have cleared most of our existing public health facilities, especially hospitals, of all normal wards. In some areas, we have designated public hospitals as Covid-19 hospitals by moving all patients on normal beds into other hospitals.
“In other big hospitals, we have cleared certain big portions of the hospital and also designated a Covid-19 hospital to deal with aliments and treatment of the virus.
Makhura said the provincial government was setting up field hospitals. “We are doing it in such a way that we can use that capacity beyond Covid-19. Where we may decide to add a new structure or capacity in a hospital, we will do that where there is space,” said Makhura.
“In Ekurhuleni, we have identified beds for isolation and quarantine facilities for those who may come into contact with those who tested positive, either waiting for tests results or proven to have been infected.
“We have identified a number of facilities, such as hotels and conference facilities,” Makhura said.