Three people have died of Covid-19 at Saint Augustine's Hospital in Durban, Dr Richard Friedland, the CEO of the Netcare Group, said on Friday.
"In the last 72 hours, three patients have tragically passed away from Covid-19 at Netcare St Augustine's Hospital. We extend our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the patients' loved ones and pray for them in this time of great loss and sadness."
Friedland said two of the patients were admitted to the hospital on 9 and 13 March and the third on 14 March.
"These patients did not have a history of recent international travel or known contact with a person who was Covid-19-positive, nor did they present any symptoms of Covid-19 when they were screened on admission."
The announcement comes as Premier Sihle Zikalala confirmed 11 healthcare workers from a private hospital in Durban had contracted Covid-19.
He said the government was considering shutting down the facility.
Emergency unit closed
Friedland said the hospital was "in close collaboration with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health to take the precautionary decision to test all healthcare and support workers who may have come into contact with the three patients for Covid-19 infection".
He added the hospital had moved at pace to mitigate infection.
"We immediately put further measures in place, including the closure of the hospital's emergency department and stopping all new admissions. There is also a considerable initiative underway to reinforce all infection control precautions and formal monitoring of all precautions will be conducted several times a day."
He said because those infected frequently showed none or few symptoms but might still be infected, Netcare took steps to screen health workers.
"Yesterday, [we] took the precautionary decision to increase the level of screening and testing of nursing, support and contracted staff, doctors, paramedics, as well as current patients at Netcare St Augustine's Hospital to determine whether or not they are clear of Covid-19 infection."
Friedland said screening and testing would enable the hospital to isolate any patients and hospital workers with suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19.
"This can facilitate the tracking of all persons who have been in contact with the healthcare workers or patients to ensure that they are tested and that they take the necessary precautionary measures to prevent the further spread of the infection."
He said hospital management was in the process of explaining the situation to patients at the hospital.
"The hospital has also set up a dedicated 24-hour information and support service which is being communicated to the families. On site and telephonic support services for all employees to use during this time of heightened concern has also been established."