KZN's first batch of Covid-19 patients demand to be released from hospital quarantine
They were among a group of 10 people who arrived from Italy on March 1. Seven of them tested positive for the virus.
However, Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu will have none of it.
“The department notes the legal correspondence. We wish to put it on record that we will not be held to ransom by any individuals who appear to seek special treatment. We have an obligation to follow all clinical management protocols for confirmed cases.
“The National Health Act makes it very clear that if any person who is a clinical or laboratory confirmed case refuses to be tested, treated, isolated or quarantined, the head of a provincial heath department is empowered to approach the high court for an appropriate court order to force the person to comply.
“If we get pushed, we will not hesitate to go the legal route to safeguard the interests of the public,” said Simelane- Zulu.
Patient Zero, who was the first South African to be diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus, was also part of the Italy group. His wife was also infected. They are expected to go home in the coming days.
Futcher & Poppesqou Attorneys sent the letter to Simelane-Zulu and the chief executive of Addington Hospital, Penny Msimango, on Thursday.
The letter stated that the patients had made appeals to various authorities within the hospital for their release.
The most recent was to the hospital’s medical manager (whose name is known The Mercury).
The patients claimed in the letter that the doctor had initially told them he could not make any decision regarding their discharge.
“He later indicated that the request was being considered and apparently granted,” the letter stated.
“However, at the last minute, the request for release was refused, despite it being communicated to our clients that they were to be released imminently.”
The law firm claimed that during this process, the four patients were exposed to a suspected case of the novel coronavirus, placing them and the unwitting suspected case at unnecessary risk.
The letter then cited a confirmed case in Gauteng of a Covid-19 patient who had apparently been released into self-isolation “prior to a negative test result being received”.
It also referred to another confirmed case at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, where a patient had been released into self-isolation prior to a negative result being received.
“It is concerning that there has been such a stark discrepancy in the handling of cases both nationally and even within the KZN region. It is particularly concerning that (a patient) has remained in isolation despite testing negative,” the letter read. The letter demands that the patients be released by midday today to avoid further risk of infection and as they are asymptomatic.
The patients have proposed that should they be released, it would be:
* Into police custody for secure conveyance to their respective homes.
* They would remain in self-isolation until such time as they tested negative, or were instructed differently by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases or the Department of Health.
They have also agreed to present themselves at a nominated facility should they display symptoms.
Speaking to The Mercury last night, attorney Mark Futcher said the patients were concerned that they were being treated differently to their colleagues who travelled with them to Italy.
“There have to be two negative test results before they are released. However, there has been no indication of when they would receive the second test result. They no longer want to be held captive by a state institution,” he said.
Futcher said the possibility of approaching the courts was not viable at this point, as should the test results return positive, the court would not rule in their favour.
“They are trying to co-operate with the government, but want the tests to be done as soon as possible,” Futcher said. He said the patients were not proposing to be released into society, but rather to remain in isolation in their homes.