SNAKING queues, no physical distancing and masks below the nose were some of the visuals outside Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital on Thursday.
The scorching sun and confusion were also the order of the day.
Health workers from all corners of the province, from both the public and private sectors, descended on the hospital in hope of getting vaccinated.
A dental assistant said she applied on Wednesday and 30 minutes later she received her sms. She had to sign the consent form and then she received her voucher number.
“I have the proof which says come here today (Thursday); I just hope this is the right line I’m in,” she said.
She said Department of Health employees were called to the front of the line, leaving the rest of the health workers feeling unimportant.
A rehabilitation centre health worker from Ballito said she took the first taxi and was at the hospital at 6.30am, only to be told that her manager had to bring a list with her name on it so that she could be vaccinated.
“We’re afraid of the third wave. Even here, some are not wearing their masks and there’s no physical distancing. It brings panic,” she said.
“Everyone’s asking themselves why there’s only one vaccination site. There are people from different areas and everyone is coming here. It looks like this is unplanned.”
A King Dinuzulu Hospital employee said a bus load of them had arrived to get vaccinated.
Health workers from a clinic in Umkomaas, on the south coast, said they clearly needed to bring lunch and thought they would stand in the queue for hours. They said they had not been addressed and had no idea what was going on.
“They (the health department) played us like a fiddle,” they said.
Another group from the Phoenix Medical Centre said they were screened, but left without being vaccinated. They described the experience as “terrible, pathetic and horrible”, after getting to St Augustine’s at 5am.
“At about 8am we were told the system had changed and they were no longer helping people without appointments,” they said.
A psychologist from an uMhlanga hospital was luckier. She reached the hospital at 8am with all her paperwork. She stood in the queue closest to the entrance and by 10.15am she had been vaccinated and was out of the gates.
“It’s because of the message of Sisonke’s walk-in that came through this week. On Tuesday, some people walked in and got vaccinated; that’s why there are crowds today (Thursday).”
She had also gone to the hospital on Tuesday, but vaccines ran out after she had waited about three hours.
Public Servants Association provincial manager Mlungisi Ndlovu said it was important to appreciate the vaccine roll-out, but the department needed to ensure that health protocols were observed.
Ndlovu said what happened in December, when hospitals were overcrowded and people were dying, should not happen again.
“We appeal to the head of department and the MEC to address this. They need to make it possible for the protocols to be followed,” said Ndlovu.
“They should employ more people to monitor and marshal.”
Netcare Hospitals managing director Jacques du Plessis said at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital, “there was an unfortunate bottleneck of people queuing outside the facility, fuelled by these incorrect messages”.
Inside their premises, at the vaccination facilities, Du Plessis said they were maintaining physical distancing with markings on the ground and chairs carefully distanced, but areas outside of the hospital grounds were beyond their control.
He said police repeatedly told people who did not have an appointment to leave and ordered those queuing to respect physical distancing guidelines, but to little avail.
“There are no additional vaccination slots available and we are therefore unable to vaccinate any walk-ins. We therefore strongly urge individuals without appointments not to come to either of these facilities and endanger themselves by arriving en masse,” said Du Plessis.
He said as the Sisonke Protocol comes to a close, they were seeing an influx of people arriving to be vaccinated. “This has not been helped by the misinformation which is currently being circulated.”
The health department had not commented at the time of publication.