Khayelitsha hospital Picture: Supplied
Khayelitsha hospital Picture: Supplied

We are not given PPE, health workers complain at two Cape hospitals

By Asanda Sokanyile Time of article published May 23, 2020

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Cape Town - Co-workers of Nolufefe Mdumata paid their last respects in a moving memorial service.

The Khayelitsha District Hospital cleaner died last Sunday at a private hospital and was laid to rest on Thursday. Mdumata is reportedly the third staff member at the hospital to succumb to the virus since lockdown.

Anguish and heartache moved through the group of workers who held a prayer vigil at one of the hospital’s courtyards in honour of their fallen colleagues. Health-care workers at the hospital said 60 staffers tested positive for the virus since lockdown began eight weeks ago.

The staffers are now in isolation while more than 50 await their test results.

A nurse who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Yes, we took an oath, yes we are an essential service and we are said to be the backbone of the health system. But we are dying, we are leaving our families and it is scary.

“Our friend and colleague died in ICU at Melomed, we are still trying to come to terms with her passing, but waiting for results at the same time is adding to the anxiety. Many of the colleagues who have tested positive had no symptoms, many of us have other ailments. We are all worried and scared for our lives,” she said.

The fears of staff, both at Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain District (MDH) hospitals, are not only confined to the virus or the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) but also claims of bullying and threats by management.

Weekend Argus spoke to six nurses at the MDH with the promise of anonymity out of fear of victimisation by management.

“We work under very risky conditions and we are expected to carry on working regardless of our health issues. We are not given any PPE, we continue working in our uniforms and only get the green gowns used in theatre when dealing with a dead body and after that, we go straight back to our uniforms,” she said.

Another nurse also complained about the treatment given to patients who tested positive. “Patients are told their results and immediately they get discharged to go and meet the community. There is no such thing as quarantine at that hospital, some are discharged before getting the results,” she said.

Recently, Tygerberg nurse, Ntombizakithi Ngidi and Petronella Benjamin, a clinic nurse, died after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

Mark van der Heever, spokesperson for the Western Cape Health department confirmed that “33 staff members were infected” at Mitchells Plain District Hospital. “Of these 16 recovered and back at work. There are currently still 17 staff members infected and in isolation.”

Eighty-six staff members were infected at Khayelitsha District Hospital. “Of these 68 recovered and back at work. There are currently 17 staff members still infected and in isolation. Sadly, one household aid member passed away,” he said.

Van Der Heever also confirmed that six staff members in the Health Department have succumbed to the virus to date. “Three nurses, two household aid staff and one porter,” he confirmed.

Weekend Argus

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