The national Labour Department has ordered the Eastern Cape Health Department to close down Frere Hospital, in East London. The health facility failed to meet the health and safety standards during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.

Frere is one of more than 20 hospitals in the province that have been earmarked for COVID-19 patients.

National Chief Inspector for Occupational Health and Safety at Labour, Tibor Szana, says the hospital is inadequately prepared to deal with the disease.

“We found that employees were not properly trained in relation to COVID-19. Had the employer complied and used the week; they would have been opened and operating. We don’t close places unnecessarily in this case. We met with the management and the management decided that they are going to fight with the Department of Labour on the matter, using that week they could have complied but they decided not to.”

Eastern Cape Health Superintendent General, Dr Thobile Mbengashe, however doesn’t believe shutting down the hospital is the solution to the problem at hand.

“Given the services that are provided and the patients that are at Frere and that it’s not feasible to move those patients out. We think it’s a matter that didn’t have to get to these levels and if there are deficiencies the department is quite open to make but we have to make sure that we are protecting our patients. That’s why we have taken the route of looking for an interdict against the prohibition.”

In the video below, Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba briefs media on the province’s readiness to deal with COVID-19:

Eastern Cape’s COVID-19 struggles

The province has seen a number of sporadic incidents of protest action over the provision of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) healthcare workers at a number of hospitals and clinics across the province. Nurses allege there is a shortage of PPE and that the health department has endangered their lives, for failing to isolate them, after they had contact with colleagues who tested positive for COVID-19.

However, Mbengashe insisted that they are managing the situation.

“Not everyone will be accorded all the PPEs. 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.”

Nurses’ union Denosa said it is planning to establish committees to monitor whether sufficient PPEs are supplied.

The provincial health department also said in mid-May that the rise in COVID-19 infections in the Eastern Cape is slowing down the turnaround time of test results. It now takes as long as five days for results, which used to take just 48 hours. The tracing of contacts is, therefore, becoming increasingly difficult.

Healthcare professionals are now well-trained about what they are dealing with, but how they deal with COVID-19 cases and the families of patients are seemingly not up to scratch. The delays in test results worsen the situation.

10 things to keep nurses safe during COVID-19

SABC News has outlined 10 recommendations for nurses to follow to keep safe during COVID-19 and while they are nursing COVID-19 infected patients.

The recommendations outlined are based on those of official sources, including the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

  1. Perform hand hygiene
  2. Clean surfaces regularly with disinfectant
  3. Adequate ventilation in rooms
  4. Change gloves when torn or heavily contaminated
  5. Wear fitted N95 respirator (medical mask)
  6. Use a face shield or medical mask and goggles
  7. Wash hands before putting on personal protective equipment (PPE)
  8. Remove PPE correctly
  9. Wash hands immediately after removing all PPE
  10. Proper patient placement.