While South Africa battles COVID-19, at the forefront of the war against the invisible enemy, are health workers. Among them, Dr Vusumzi Mehlo, a Clinical Manager at St Barnabas Hospital at Libode, in the Eastern Cape.
He has gone the extra mile to save COVID-19 patients, even driving an ambulance during this pandemic.
St Barnabas is one of the hospitals with low infections amongst its workers. But the battle against COVID-19 is far from over. Mehlo is one of the hundreds of health workers committed to saving lives.
As a manager at St Barnabas Hospital servicing thousands of villagers from Nyandeni, he says the Hospital is responsible for the recoveries of 30 patients who were infected at a funeral in nearby Port St Johns.
“I think we are the first institution in OR Tambo to treat COVID patients whereby we had over 20 patients. We didn’t have any patient dying from COVID-19 from those patients and they are all discharged to their communities, and now we continue having newly diagnosed people.”
Hundreds of COVID-19 patients have been admitted to the hospital with less than five deaths.
When one of the patients had difficulties breathing, Mehlo took it upon himself to drive an ambulance to a nearby hospital for additional help.
“The ambulances were dispatched to other areas then I end up driving an ambulance that day for the first time and my interest was to save the patient’s life so that she has a life after COVID. Someone else would say that was abnormal but to me, since it’s a calling, I’ll do anything to save any person’s life.”
The Health Department is besieged with protests in the area with health workers from 49 clinics remaining on a stay-away.
Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo says it depends on such hospitals to offer services to people coming from far-flung areas.
“There are two hospitals that demonstrated commitment in the fight against COVID-19 with is St Barnabas and Zithulele hospitals in Mqanduli. they started admitting people outside their casement areas. Dr Mehlo admitted 30 people from Majola.”
The Health Department has pleaded with its workers to continue assisting their communities like Dr Mehlo.
Kupelo says the department is in the process of setting regulations that will prohibit the closure of health facilities.
“This is a crisis that needs everyone, so this is encouraging by those men and women. we are aware of the challenges. We are aware of the anxiety that has been demonstrated, we are dealing with those challenges.”
The infection of staff members remains low at St Barnabas Hospital.
Out of 400 workers just 15 have been infected, with 7 already back at work.