There have been sporadic incidents of protest about the provision of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) by Eastern Cape healthcare workers. Over the past few weeks, protest action was staged at a number of hospitals and clinics across the province.
Nurses say there is a shortage of PPE. They also insist that the health department has endangered their lives, for failing to isolate them, after they had contact with colleagues who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Two health workers at the Willowvale Health Centre allegedly tested positive for COVID-19 last week. But, the staff says the management of the centre did not inform them about the development. On Thursday, they downed tools.
This is what they had to say:
“We tested on the 6th and others on the 7th. We heard that two of our fellow staff members tested positive. But only one of them was told. The rest of us were not told and it was business as usual. Then, we were told on Thursday by another staff member that they tested positive. We went and asked the managers why they did not tell us because according to the guidelines we were supposed to be evacuated and the place disinfected, but that did not happen. The managers then said we were not supposed to hear about these on the corridors, then they apologised,” says one staff member.
Another member says, “One other thing that we are facing with is the lack of PPE, particularly the apron. We sometimes work without them. For almost a week, there are no aprons. It’s only these masks and gloves and secondly, the floor is not cleaned so there is no way by which we can control infection without these measures that need to be taken.”
Workers at the nearby Dutywa Health Centre say they are faced with a similar situation. They also protested and accuse management of forcing them to continue work, while a nurse tested positive.
“Here, we have a nurse who was tested positive. The results came out yesterday. The nurse is still here at nurses’ home whereas they were sharing the kitchen and also the bathroom with other nurses and other people who are staying there at the nurse’s home. Secondly, the employees didn’t do a baseline before the starting of the corona. They have tested this week when there was a nurse who tested positive. Now, they are continuing going to work whereas the guidelines say that someone who is waiting for his results must stay at his home for 7 up to 14 days.”
Below is a graphic of the South African statistics of the coronavirus:
Eastern Cape Health Department HOD, Thobile Mbengashe says they are managing the situation.
“Not everyone will be accorded all the PPE’s. We also cannot close an institution because someone in a certain section contracted the virus. We cannot put everyone on quarantine because someone in a certain section tested positive,” says Mbengashe.
Nurses’ union, Denosa is concerned about the allegations. Provincial Chairperson, Sivuyile Mange, says, “What is dismaying, which as Denosa we are not accepting, is that when nurses are expected to get quarantined, as per the regulations, we get difficulties from the management to let our nurses to be quarantined. They get threats and insults from the management instead of getting the support they need. Because remember, this is the time that the nurses need more support from the employer of which it is the Department of Health in this case. But it is not the case as it is supposed to be.”
Denosa is also planning to establish committees to monitor that sufficient PPE’s are supplied.
SABC News reporter outlines how people in the Eastern Cape’s Idutywa are ignoring lockdown regulations:
Below is a graphic of Level 4 regulations: