COVID-19 field hospital opens at converted PE auto plant

24 July 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202019880

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COVID-19 field hospital opens at converted PE auto plant

VOLKSWAGEN Group South Africa (VWSA) recently handed over the first phase of a temporary medical facility for COVID-19 patients it had developed to the Eastern Cape Department of Health.

The company announced in May that they would make its former Port Elizabeth plant, situated in Neave, available as an overflow facility to provide care for those diagnosed with the disease.

With funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), VWSA has since completed the first phase of equipping this facility, which can now accommodate 1,485 patients including high-acuity patients who require oxygenation.

Once the second and third phases are complete, in accordance with the Department of Health's standard operating procedures for field hospitals the facility will have room for more than 3 300 beds for patients.

The conversion of this 66 000m² building is the result of collaboration between VWSA, Eastern Cape Department of Health, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber. BMZ provided funding of 5.2 million Euros (R100 million).

A performance framework for the project was developed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The Business Chamber assisted in facilitating the project, while the Department of Health will be responsible for running the facility, with support from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

Aside from managing the process of equipping the facility, VWSA contributed 1.3 million Euros (R25 million) for the facility, as well as the procurement of protective gear for staff at regional tertiary hospitals, regional Primary Care Clinics and COVID-19 test centres.

Some 600 000 Euros (R11 million) of this funding will also be used in support of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) branch in Port Elizabeth, which is responsible for the majority of COVID-19 testing in the metro.

The branch is currently facing immense pressure amid challenges that include the shortage of testing kits.

The assistance from VWSA will include the sourcing of necessary equipment and improving the process flow of testing - all with the goal of doubling the current laboratory's daily average output of 1 500 tests to more than 3 000 tests.

"We have learned that collaboration is key when facing an unprecedented threat such as COVID-19," said Thomas Schaefer, Chairman and Managing Director of VWSA.

"This pandemic requires us to act decisively and with speed. VWSA has answered this call by completing and delivering phase 1 of the medical facility at the time when it is desperately needed by our metro which is currently experiencing an alarming increase of infections.”

Eastern Cape Premier Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane, welcomed the completion of the first phase of the field hospital. "The intervention by Volkswagen Group South Africa and the German government, to invest in the establishment of this 3 300-bed field hospital, came at the right time as more than 12 000 people in our province are infected by COVID-19," said Mabuyane.

"It is neatly dovetailing into our broader strategy of establishing field hospitals to fight COVID -19 in the Eastern Cape. We were looking for more beds to increase our capacity and ensure that whoever is in need of hospitalisation will be able to get that support from this public-private partnership."

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