A comparison of private and public sector intensive care unit infrastructure in South Africa

  • S Mahomed
  • A.W. Sturm
  • P Moodley


Background. Intensive care units (ICUs) are designed to care for patients who are often at increased risk of acquiring healthcare-associated infections. The structure of ICUs should be optimally designed to facilitate the care of these critically ill patients, and minimise their risk of infection. National regulations (R158) were developed to govern the building and registration of private hospitals, and until recently equivalent regulations were not available for public hospitals.

Objective. To assess and compare the compliance of ICUs in the private and public sectors with the R158 regulations.

Methods. A cross-sectional study design was used to assess the infrastructure of 25 private sector and 6 public sector ICUs in eThekwini Health District, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. We used the R158 checklist, which was developed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health Private Licensing Unit and Infection Prevention and Control Unit. The aspects covered in the R158 checklist were categorised into the design, general safety and patient services of the ICUs.

Results. Most of the ICUs in both sectors met the general safety requirements. There were varying levels of compliance with the design criteria. Only 7 (28.0%) and 1 (16.7%) of the private and public ICUs, respectively, had sufficient space around the beds. Twenty-two private ICUs (88.0%) and 4 public ICUs (66.7%) had isolation rooms, but only some of these isolation rooms (15 private and 2 public) had appropriate mechanical ventilation. None of the ICUs had clinical hand-wash basins in the nurse stations and dirty utility rooms. The majority of the ICUs had the required number of oxygen and electric outlets at the bedside. None of the public ICUs met the light intensity requirement over the bed area.

Conclusions. Adequate spacing in ICUs is an issue in many cases. Interventions need to be put in place to ensure that ICUs meet the relevant design standards. There is an urgent need to revise the R158 regulations to reflect current best practices, particularly with regard to infection control. The same standards should be applied to ICUs in the private and public health sectors to maintain quality of care to patients.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135