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Durban - Nurses at Durban’s King Edward VIII Hospital have threatened to down tools if hospital management does not attend to their demands, which include a call to deal with overcrowding at the hospital as a result of last year’s floods.

A total of 21 sections of the hospital, including maternity wards and casualty trauma units, were damaged in the floods leading to serious overcrowding over the past six months as repair work is under way.

Mandla Shabangu, the provincial secretary of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) said the union had on Friday written to the Department of Health to make their views on the situation known.

“The attitude is that from Monday our members won't service anyone until a conducive environment is created. The management has an obligation to ensure that the environment is conducive for workers,” he said.

Shabangu claimed the situation was so dire that the hospital’s trauma unit is now being used as an ordinary medical ward.

“Our members are faced with a difficult situation because even after stabilising people at the trauma unit, they cannot be transferred to other wards because there are no beds.

“In some cases people who are injured and have been stabilised are put in the TB section when there are beds, and that is not allowed.”

He said a disaster task team had been convened from last year but has not met even once this year.

Shabangu said one of the proposals Denosa had made to the hospital management was that some patients be moved to Clairwood Hospital, but the proposal was overlooked.

The Department of Health pleaded for patience and understanding from the public saying the repairs are due to be completed next month.

Nurses who spoke on condition of anonymity said they find it hard to render professional services under such conditions.

“Some patients end up staying two to three days waiting for a bed because so many wards were shut down due to the floods,” said a nurse.

The Mercury understands that facilities such as lifts were also damaged.

“King Edward VIII Hospital is housed in a very old structure, which makes repairs to certain parts of it complex and challenging,” said Ncumisa Mafunda, spokesperson for the Health Department.

This had an adverse impact on normal operations at the hospital. However, the process to repair the damage began soon after the storm and has now reached an advanced stage, with overall completion scheduled for the end of May 2018.”

Mafunda said hospital management is in constant contact with neighbouring hospitals to mitigate the shortage of beds.

“When the bed occupancy rate is too high at King Edward VIII, arrangements are also made for Emergency Medical Services to take emergency patients to these neighbouring health facilities,” she said.

Some staff members alleged the bed shortage had led to the mixing of patients of different sexes in wards.

However, the department said this was only done at the high care and ICU wards where patients are confined to their beds.

“The department wishes to thank staff and management for persevering under trying conditions, and also appeals for patience and understanding from the public until the situation returns to normal,” Mafunda said.

The Mercury