Netcare Kingsway Hospital in Amanzimtoti, south of Durban. File photo: ANA/Leon Lestrade
Netcare Kingsway Hospital in Amanzimtoti, south of Durban. File photo: ANA/Leon Lestrade

Nursing union unhappy with decision to re-open KZN Netcare hospitals following Covid-19 outbreaks

By Se-Anne Rall Time of article published May 11, 2020

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Durban - Nursing union, Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) believes that the decision to re-open the Netcare St Augustine's and Kingsway hospitals was premature. The union has said that unless they received an investigative report into how the outbreak of Covid-19 spread at the facilities, Denosa affiliates will be told not to return to duty. They also want the safety of their members to be guaranteed. 

At the weekend, Netcare's Craig Murphy, said permission to re-open the hospitals was taken following advice from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health. 

“Since Netcare St Augustine’s and Netcare Kingsway hospitals were closed for new patient admissions in April, Netcare has been engaging and working closely, and on an ongoing basis, with the KZN DoH  on all matters pertaining to Covid-19 at the hospitals. Last week, the hospitals had already further enhanced their disinfecting and decontaminating programmes of all the facilities on their premises. Doctors at Netcare St Augustine’s and Netcare Kingsway hospitals will also again be consulting from their rooms as from Monday," Murphy said. 

In a statement on Monday, Denosa's Mandla Shabangu said there had been no transparency as to what caused the outbreak of Covid-19 to spread at both medical facilities. 

"The reason for closing these institutions was to conduct investigations so as to determine the cause of so many infections with the view to prevent it from re-happening. It is worrying that to date organised labour as one of the stakeholders have not been given the outcome of the investigation so that they can reassure their members that the institutions are now safe for them to come back to," he said. 

Shabangu said they were concerned that nurses and other essential workers could still be at risk if the cause of the outbreak had not been identified and attended to. 

"What is more concerning is the fact that the MEC alluded in media briefing that investigation is still going on which brings a question of how did the department arrive at the decision to re-open these institutions. We are calling on the department to provide an investigative report as well as recommendations made and also to indicate how they arrived at the decision to re- open these institutions and also take us into confidence as to what plans they have to prevent it from happening again," he said. 

"We are still concerned about the safety of its members since the investigation has not been finalised. The department must come up with stricter ways of monitoring these institutions to ensure that incidence like this is avoided in future. Furthermore, we want all staff be provided with adequate PPE and two cloth masks each to protect them while travelling from home to work, since it is now compulsory to wear them," Shabangu said. 

He warned against Netcare punishing Denosa members. 

"We take this opportunity to warn Netcare not to punish our members because of these developments and make them bank hours because that action is equivalent to unfair labour practice since it was not their fault the institution had to close so no staff must be made to pay back those hours. We would also be happy if all healthcare workers could be provided with continuous counselling  and be screened and tested for early diagnosis and prompt treatment."

"We want to remind our members to always observe principles of infection prevention and control in terms of hand hygiene,  doffing and donning to ensure their safety. We call for the hand sprays to all healthcare providers to use between patients to minimise cross-infection," Shabangu said. 

Denosa further called for Netcare to consider relieving vulnerable employees, those with chronic conditions pregnant and old employees to delay coming to work to protect them since they are high risk of contracting the virus until the outbreak is contained, in an event this is not possible  Netcare to take extra precautions in caring for these employees. 

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