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UPDATE 1-South Africa's Netcare flags decline in first-half profit

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JOHANNESBURG, April 22 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Netcare Ltd expects first-half core profit to be down 36% to 38% from a year earlier after a second wave of COVID-19 forced it to suspend elective surgery in favour of necessary and time-sensitive procedures, it said on Thursday.

Revenue in the six months to March 31 is expected to be between 5.5% and 6.5% lower, the private hospital group said.

Netcare suspended elective surgery between Dec. 19 and the third week of January when a more severe, nationwide COVID-19 variant became more pronounced.

“Notwithstanding the improved H1 2021 performance against H2 2020, activity levels and occupancies have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels,” Netcare said, referring to activity at its main hospitals and emergency services division.

Total patient days - which represent stays in its hospitals - for the six months ending in March were down 13.6% from the previous period, with a 13.7% decline at acute hospitals and 12.6% for mental health.

The suspension of elective surgery coupled with higher COVID-19 admissions resulted in a 20.9% drop in theatre minutes. As a result, full week occupancy levels within acute hospitals decreased to 53.8% in the period from 62.3%, it said.

In its primary care division, GP and dental consultations reflected a steady, sequential improvement from the second half, though patient activity remained about 12% lower than the same period a year earlier due to the impact of COVID-19. ($1 = 14.2105 rand) (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by David Clarke)

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