File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Old-age home caregivers 'risking lives' after three Covid-19 deaths

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Jun 9, 2020

Share this article:

Cape Town – Disgruntled caregivers at Huis Ebenhaeser Old Age Home in Cloetesville, Stellenbosch, say they have been risking their lives working at a facility that "does not comply with Covid-19 regulations”, without pay.

The staff said there had been three Covid-19-related deaths at the home and about 20 positive cases.

They’ve also complained about negligence, and a lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to contain the spread of the virus at the home.

Huis Ebenhaeser’s Ciunza Valdaise, however, said 80% of the staff had been paid and that the facility had a total of 11 cases.

A staff member, who spoke on condition that she remained anonymous for fear of losing her job, said she was concerned about her safety and that of her family, because there was “no transparency when someone is infected”.

“We have a serious problem here, especially with PPE. There is a shortage of gloves and masks. Our complaints about not changing gloves regularly have fallen on deaf ears. 

"The same pair of gloves that we use to wash two residents would also be used on three more, which is not hygienic. There was also a time when there were not enough masks at the facility, and we were told to use our own masks that we bought to use in our homes and communities,” she said.

Another employee claimed that sanitiser was heavily diluted with water and that the facility cared more about money than their health and safety.

“There is just a lot of carelessness here from the managers, and it’s scary. Recently a resident was diagnosed with the virus but we never saw health workers coming in to deep-clean the room or the area the person had been around; bear in mind there are more than 100 people in this facility," she said.

“A nurse had to also work with us while awaiting test results, instead of being sent home to quarantine. We have also not been tested but everything is continuing as if it’s normal. I have no doubt there are colleagues walking around who are positive but are asymptomatic. 

"We are enduring all of this while still waiting for our salaries, which were due on June 3. As a result some people refused to work.”

Of the Covid-19-related deaths, two were residents, and they had 11 cases and eight pending cases, said Valdaise.

“These allegations are false. They do go to the clinic or hospital to be tested for Covid-19 and be isolated, waiting for results. Due to NHLS (National Health Laboratory Service) backlog, results may take longer than 14 days. We don’t force any employee to work.

"The facility, being a frail care centre, was abandoned on Sunday night by nurses that pledged to practise their profession faithfully and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.

“They left their patients on their own, without being attended to. We were able to fill in the gap when the nurses didn't report for duty.

"Everything was under control. There are many old age homes in the Western Cape with more positive Covid-19 cases; the nurses didn't abandon their residents.”

Valdaise said they received a supply of essential items from the departments of Social Development and Health, and were provided with policies and protocols.

“We have enough gloves and masks in stock and we received a notification from the departments that we will get 80 more facial masks tomorrow (today).

"All the rooms were sanitised. We got a special outsource service on the premises, and we were referred to another service specialising in deep cleaning.

"We contacted them and are still waiting for them to come back to us. We are well prepared and all the protocols are in place.

“Regarding payments, we are being paid from the subsidies paid to the home by the government. We are still waiting for payment of the same.

“However, we were able to pay 80% of our salaries on May 29, the due payment date being June 3. Some received full payments.”

Joshua Chigome, spokesperson for social development MEC Sharna Fernandez, said the department would look into the allegations made by the caregivers.

Cape Times

Share this article:

Related Articles