Picture: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File
Picture: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File

South African Medical Association bemoans shortage of testing kits, protective gear

By Karen Singh and Kailene Pillay Time of article published Mar 25, 2020

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Durban - Doctors fighting the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic feel vulnerable because protective gear and test kits are in short supply.

This is according to SA Medical Association (Sama) spokesperson Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa.

Mzukwa said there were challenges with personal protective equipment in both the public and private sectors.

“We have had shortages of N95 masks and gloves in some areas and the shortage of test kits is worrisome.

“If you have a patient who needs to be tested now and you don’t have kits, it is going to be a problem and will delay the management of that patient,” said Mzukwa.

A medical doctor, working at a KwaZulu-Natal public hospital, said the supply of test kits was slow but they understood the department’s predicament.

“It is a problem but when we request kits from the department, some are being sent through. There is obviously a huge demand nationally and since the National Department of Health is handling everything, they are trying to spread resources,” the medical doctor said.

Another medical doctor said at the public hospital she was working at, they were not given appropriate protective wear.

“Basically it was just scrubs that we were given. I mean, it is safe but since we don’t have too much information right now on Covid-19, we are wondering if scrubs are enough especially for us who are handling patients.”

In an interview with eNCA on Sunday, Sama chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said that for the entire weekend there were only three test kits at a Durban hospital dedicated to treating coronavirus patients.

“If it is not there, you cannot expect doctors to put their lives in danger (and) also other patients they will see after they have tested positive,” said Coetzee.

Mzukwa said there was no proper co-ordination of the outbreak as some doctors were not given the implementation plan to curb the spread of the virus in the country.

For example, he said at a KZN hospital, doctors were not told the hospital’s plan on how to manage the outbreak. “In some hospitals, it looks like there is no plan or if there is a plan, it is not known to the employees.

“When there are shortages of equipment, fear kicks in especially if there is no clear command.”

The Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment.

The Mercury

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