KwaDukuza hospital Covid-19 outbreak probe finds mother failed to disclose husband's positive status
KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the woman had been housed at the boarders’ lodge – a facility where mothers are housed after giving birth. She said nine mothers, two babies, four doctors and a nurse had tested positive so far.
Angry health-care workers at the hospital claimed they did not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and that they had repeatedly raised their concerns with hospital management.
They claimed they were forced to work without PPE and were threatened with dismissal if they refused.
“The hospital management was negligent and we’re all terrified of contracting the virus,” said one of the workers.
Simelane-Zulu said they had instituted an urgent investigation by Communicable Diseases Control and infection prevention and control (IPC) experts to establish how the virus had been able to spread so rapidly within the hospital.
“We’re extremely concerned by these developments, and have urgently exercised our constitutional obligation to prevent a further outbreak of the virus.
“Of particular concern to us is the fact that these infections have taken place in spite of the hospital’s IPC measures, as well as the requisite PPE that’s been made available to staff,” said Simelane-Zulu.
She said all positive staff and patients had been isolated, and all protocols for contact mapping, tracing, testing, quarantine and isolation had been followed, in compliance with guidelines from the World Health Organization.
“The hospital, with 219 patients, has effectively been turned into a quarantine site.
“All staff and patients in the surgical ward and ICU have been tested.”
Simelane-Zulu said some of the staff and patients were tested on Monday night, and testing continued yesterday.
“A high-level outbreak response team from KZN was also engaging with hospital management, organised labour and other relevant stakeholders on best practice to ensure the safety of staff and patients, as well as the rendering of adequate support and further intervention where necessary,” she said.
Low-risk patients would be diverted by Emergency Medical Services to district hospitals, while serious cases would be diverted to King Edward VIII Hospital, Simelane-Zulu.
“Obstetrics and gynaecological cases requiring care at the regional level will be diverted to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, King Edward VIII, and RK Khan hospitals. Chronic patients will be assessed at the gate, get issued with three months’ medical supplies, and be down-referred to Central Chronic Medicine Dispensing and Distribution sites,” said the department.
National Health and Allied Workers Union KZN secretary, Ayanda Zulu, who was at the hospital yesterday, said the hospital management had failed to produce proof they had provided staff with PPE.
“Workers told us that they were not provided with PPE. We have given management until Monday to show us the proof. Inside the hospital there is no social distancing among the patients. A lot of patients and workers will have to be tested,” said Zulu.
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa said it was not surprised the hospital had been closed.
Provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu claimed that in recent weeks, their members had allegedly been forced by one of the night managers to nurse patients without having PPE.
Shabangu said they had tried to engage with the hospital management and the Ilembe District, but found no resolution. He then asked the KZN Health Department to intervene.
“This is disturbing because we alerted the department but they did nothing about it. We are not surprised and this shows that our members were raising valid concerns, but it fell on deaf ears,” he said.
The national chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Dr Angelique Coetzee, said they had received several complaints from health-care workers in KZN. Coetzee said that a lot of workers, especially in the public sector, were extremely concerned about the lack of PPE.
“We need to do more in protecting our front-line workers. The spread of the virus among public hospitals is a huge problem considering the number of patients they see each day. Considering the spread of the virus, the workers now need to treat every patient who walks into the hospital as a positive person.
“In that way, they would treat them with extreme caution and protect themselves. But in doing that, the government must provide enough protective equipment. Workers must not reuse masks or gloves,” said Coetzee.
However, the Department of Health denied the claims, saying the infections took place despite IPC measures being in place and PPE being made available to staff.