File picture: Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African news Agency (ANA)
File picture: Photographer Ayanda Ndamane African news Agency (ANA)

Covid-19 infections rise among Durban nurses, doctors

By Lyse Comins Time of article published Dec 14, 2020

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Durban - KWAZULU-NATAL hospitals are seeing an escalating number of Covid-19 patients.

Infections among health-care workers are rising, sometimes forcing ambulances to divert patients from one facility to another depending on staff capacity and severity of illness.

However, this does not mean that certain hospitals are full or closed to patients as some fake news social media posts have erroneously claimed at the weekend, health authorities said yesterday.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the second wave of Covid-19 had hit health-care workers in eThekwini Municipality.

“We have also noted correspondence being widely distributed on social media, purportedly by staff, among others, alluding to these infections. It is with a deep sense of concern that we confirm a significant rise in Covid-19 infections among health workers, which has become noticeable in recent weeks,” Simelane-Zulu said.

She said over the past 24 hour reporting period, KwaZulu-Natal had reported 1 613 new Covid-19 cases, which brought the total number of infections to  139 366.

“Sadly, there have been 4 new deaths in KZN, bringing the number of fatalities to 3 457,” she said.

Simelane-Zulu said 38 staff members, including five doctors, 11 nursing staff, one allied worker, and 21 support staff members had tested positive for Covid-19 at Addington Hospital since December 1.

However, she said Addington Hospital was open and accepting walk-in patients.

“Only those who are picked up by ambulance are being diverted to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial and King Edward VIII hospitals,” she said.

She said 23 staff, including seven nurses, 10 doctors, two radiologists, three clerks and one general orderly had tested positive at RK Khan Hospital.

“Contrary to unfounded reports, RK Khan Hospital is also open and rendering health-care services, while following strict Covid-19 infection prevention and control protocols,” Simelane-Zulu said.

Simelane-Zulu said a total of 7 451 health-care workers had been infected with COVID-19 in the public sector since the beginning of the pandemic of which 91 (1%) had died. The majority of infected health-care workers were nurses (57%), while doctors comprised 6% of the total.

Simelane-Zulu said health-care workers were not immune to the resurgence of Covid-19 in broader society and KwaZulu-Natal was among the four provinces driving the spread of the virus, alongside Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

“Covid-19 is only flaring up now, because when the Covid-19 statistics started to go down, too many people became complacent and started assuming that the virus was no longer a threat,” she said.

“With the second wave now here, if the precautions are strictly followed, there lies an opportunity for health workers and the public to buck the trend and avoid being part of the statistics from this global phenomenon. The resurgence of Covid-19 should be a turning point that galvanises society to work together to arrest, once and for all, the acquiring and further spread of the virus.”

“Where we find ourselves now need not amount to a second wave of panic, which helps no-one and instead sows fear, stigmatisation and the discrimination of staff and patients from those affected facilities,” she said,

She said as at December 12 the province had 1 335 patients admitted in private (n=941, 70%) and public (n=394, 30%) hospitals.

RK Khan board chairperson Cyril Pillay said some of the doctors infected at the hospital worked in casualty, however, the hospital was still attending to walk and drive-in patients, although ambulances were being diverted to other hospitals.

“These are unprecedented times and it is being handled professionally. There are a lot of fake alarms on social media and I want to appeal to people to stop sending fake messages on Facebook that the hospital is closed because it creates fear among the elderly and the vulnerable,” he said.

Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, said social media posts that ICU beds were full in its hospitals were “not correct”.

“We can however confirm that we have seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in KwaZulu-Natal and the situation is currently progressing,” he said.

The Mercury

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