Health workers decry rules on masks at Durban private hospital
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Durban - Health-care workers at a Durban
private hospital have apparently complained the hospital has strict
rules on the use of masks.
A health activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had received calls and complaints from staff at Lenmed Ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre saying they were not allowed to use masks, with only one ward being able to do so.
“In general they’re not using masks, only the isolation ward is using masks. They aren’t even allowed in ICU, high care or surgical wards,” he said. “Nobody else is using masks. You’re not allowed to use a mask and you can’t bring your own mask.”
However, hospital general manager Niresh Bechan said all employees, doctors and support services were provided with the relevant personal protective equipment (PPE) and associated guidelines applicable to their role in the hospital.
“Hospitals have been divided into low, medium and high-risk areas. Everyone working in a designated area is provided with and has been trained on the relevant PPE for that area,” said Bechan.
He said patients with severe coronavirus symptoms such as shortness of breath were requested to call ahead to the Accident and Emergency Department to arrange for an assessment or possible admission. Those with mild symptoms or wanting to be tested were to contact their GP for advice.
The use of masks has been strongly debated since the coronavirus pandemic hit South Africa. Last week, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the masks were one of the best ways of preventing the spread of infection and recommended them in particular where people had a cough, other symptoms, or in a situation where social distancing was difficult.
Meanwhile, Dr Chris Archer, chief executive of the South African Private Practice Forum, said since there was a shortage of surgical and N95 masks, these should be restricted to health-care workers working in the front line, treating critically ill patients with the virus. These health-care workers include doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and all support staff in facilities that provide health-care.
“It’s not appropriate for the general public to be wearing these medical grade masks. The general public is urged to heed this request, aimed at ensuring that health-care workers treating infected patients do not themselves become infected,” said Archer.