Health services at the National Hospital in Bloemfontein have been disrupted. This after workers, including nurses, administrators and general staff, downed tools. They have accused management of violating COVID-19 health protocols.
A nurse at the National Hospital in Bloemfontein claims she was stigmatised after she tested positive for COVID-19. Matladi Twala says she was accused by hospital management of bringing disease into the facility.
On Monday, workers at the hospital downed tools, protesting over a shortage of personal protective equipment and alleged failure by management to adhere to health protocols.
Workers also claim that they have been forced to work despite several confirmed COVID-19 cases at the facility. Twala says the working environment at the National Hospital is not conducive to fighting the coronavirus.
“I was tested positive on the 17th and the managers then came to my house and when they came they asked for the contacts. After I’m surprised (sic) they say today I got COVID-19 from the community. So I want to understand whose community, because here at work I’m working with COVID suspects patients (sic) of which some of the patients become positive. And we don’t have even proper PPE’s. We compromise every time for work in the same situation. I’m so surprised. I’m supervising that ward and I know always when we need things they don’t give us,” says Twala.
Another nurse at the casualty department, Puleng Mathoka, says they are terrified.
“They all come with all the symptoms. We have to nurse them. On the 28th of June, we had plus/minus 5 positive cases. And on the 1st of July, some of the staff members which were on duty on the 28 of June started to have symptoms. They all wanted to get tested, but the CEO’s exact words were that ‘the team cannot test all of them at once.’ We want to sabotage his hospital. So, the challenge is that the hospital does not really care about its employees. And the space we are nursing patients is not ventilated yet,” says Mathoka.
Rebecca Adams has worked at the hospital for three decades, 10 years of which as a mortuary attendant. Adams claims she is at risk of contracting the coronavirus as corpses are mixed at the mortuary.
“(The) challenge at the mortuary is that corpses are mixed. COVID-19 corpses are mixed with those without COVID-19 related illnesses. When I get here, I’m not even aware of which one is COVID-19 positive or not. I’m at risk,” says Adams.
Nehawu Regional Secretary, Constable Selebedi, has appealed to hospital management to put in proper structures in place to ensure health and safety for their members.
“What should happen here now is that the processes that should be followed must ensue. The place must be decontaminated as we are complaining about the place and the area that the person who has tested positive has been around. But, according to what we hear from the workers, that is not the case.”
Free State Health Spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, has refuted the allegations.
“People that test positive, we immediately put them in isolation and those that might have interacted with these people, they are then done what is called ‘risk assessment’ to determine if they are high risk, medium risk or low risk, whilst they are awaiting results. Those who get tested, whilst they are awaiting their results, we put them in isolation because our responsibility is to make sure that there’s no continuation of infections.”
Further engagements with workers unions are expected on Tuesday to resolve some of the outstanding issues.
In the video below, Themba Hospital staff members demand COVID-19 test: