Private hospital group Mediclinic is bullish that the worst of the Covid pandemic is largely behind us, with normal hospital activity expected to resume in South Africa over the coming year.
Presenting its annual results on Wednesday (25 May), the group noted that based on the most recent trends and expectations, Covid-19-related cases are expected to recede further in the coming months, leading to an increase in more normalised client activity and fewer direct Covid-19-related costs.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the group said it has cared for approximately 85,000 Covid-19 inpatients across its operations in South Africa, Switzerland and the Middle East.
“Even though Covid-19 patient volumes were similar compared with the prior year, we experienced a significant increase in overall client activity, driven by demand for our broad range of healthcare services. In 2022, we treated around 750,000 inpatient and day case admissions, up 14% compared with FY21, with outpatient revenue increasing by 10%.”
On-site vaccination centres in South Africa assisted with the delivery of some 360,000 vaccines, it said.
“The Omicron variant proved less clinically severe than previous variants, resulting in fewer COVID-19 inpatient admissions compared with other waves; however, staffing and patient scheduling were severely disrupted at times by the variant’s higher transmissibility. Encouragingly, we were able to exit the fourth quarter strongly across all three divisions as the wave receded.
Medclinic’s prognosis follows a similar assessment made by hospital group Netcare in its results presentation this week. The signs are positive that South Africa has passed the worst of the Covid pandemic, the group said in its interim results report on Monday (23 May).
“The new Omicron sub-variants (BA.4 and BA.5) that have recently emerged are currently driving an increase in Covid-19 positive cases in South Africa. While the impact of these sub-variants appears to be mild thus far, reflected in relatively low hospitalisation and lower mortality, it may weigh on patient sentiment and could affect activity in the short term.
“In addition, the possibility of further waves of Covid-19 does exist. However, in the absence of a new highly transmissible and virulent variant of the virus, and against the background of increasing levels of immunity from natural infection and vaccination, there may be a reduction in the severity of such potential waves should the serial mutation of the Omicron variant continue.”
Should this scenario eventuate, allowing South Africa to move from a pandemic to a more stable endemic state in which outbreaks are not overly disruptive and are largely controlled by significant and frequent vaccination, recovery in activity over time to pre Covid-19 levels can reasonably be foreseen, Netcare said.