/ 19 April 2020

Nurses ‘threatened’ after refusing to attend to people in quarantine

The health sector has seen an increase in its staffing budget
With more resources than other provinces, health workers in Gauteng still say they do not have enough protective equipment to ensure safety when working with Covid-19 patients. (Paul Botes, M&G)

The ANC in the Eastern Cape has come under fire from the South African Communists Party (SACP) for using the bed and breakfast of a politically connected person to quarantine 16 people who tested positive for Covid-19.

Premier Oscar Mabuyane confirmed on Friday that the B&B belongs to Kwakhanya Tikana, the daughter of the MEC for transport, Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe.

The 16 people, who were identified during mass testing in the Cala area, were moved to Glen Grey Hospital in Lady Frere, but nurses refused to assist them, saying they don’t have the required personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure they do not contract the virus.

The hospital’s chief executive allegedly threatened the nurses with disciplinary action.

Khaya Sodidi, the provincial secretary of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in the Eastern Cape, said: “We have received concerning calls from our members, saying they have been intimidated by the hospital CEO after they refused to attend to patients suspected to have the Covid-19. The hospital in question is not even capacitated to handle Covid-19. It’s a remote hospital. As Denosa we are still waiting for those charges to come to us,” he added.

Two nurses, who did not want to be named, confirmed that 16 patients had arrived at the hospital.

“I am not meant to talk about this. But the 16 people are at the hospital on the other side. We are not attending to them because we have nothing to protect ourselves with. We were told they will be there for 14 days and then they will be tested to see if they still have the virus,” said one nurse.

Judy Ngoloyi, spokesperson for the Heath MEC, denied the allegations of intimidation levelled against the hospital’s management. “There are 16 results that are back, 14 tested positive therefore are isolated, then two of those are negative. Nurses had concerns about PPEs and were not satisfied with what was provided. Disposable gowns, N95 and goggles have been organised to add on what was provided.”

She added: “A decision has been taken that all public hospitals are to admit clients infected with Covid-19. Only those that are critical patients will be referred to regional hospitals.”

Sodidi said Denosa has been told that about 40 people have been intimidated. “From the cleaning to medical staff. They refused to clean the floors or attend to the ward where those people are being kept. As Denosa we have told them not to do anything in that ward, except when they are provided with safety material to protect their lives. They do, however, continue with normal hospital work. That environment is not safe for them and we’re concerned,” said Sodidi.

Ngoloyi denied that anyone was intimidated. “It has emerged that one nurse, who was not there when the PPEs were handed over to other staff members, was furious since they didn’t get the briefing about how things are used. From there she was instructed to do her work upon return  as someone who took an oath to serve people. There was no one intimidated with anything,” said Ngoloyi.

The SACP said the pandemic was being used for personal benefits. “The allegations are of great concern as they blemish the efforts of the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus. It is important that proximity to leadership of both the movement and government does not mean or raise suspicion of unduly benefiting in government tenders,” the SACP said in a statement.

“It is our considered view that there can be no justification of such actions if the allegations are proven to be true, and any defence of such conduct constitutes a direct attack on the core values of the congress movement.”

The Daily Dispatch reported earlier this week that people were quarantined in Mioca B&B in Cala.

On Friday Mabuyane issued a statement saying he had advised the departments of health and public works to find alternative accommodation.

“The booking at Mioca B&B has since been cancelled by the provincial government,” he said. “The decision is a proper action by the government to remove any doubt in the work the government is doing to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the province.”

The premier said they appreciated the willingness of the B&B to accommodate those who needed to be quarantined at no cost to the government and at a time where no other establishment in the area was willing to quarantine people.

“MEC for transport, safety and liaison, Mrs Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, assured me that she does not own the B&B at issue and that the ownership of this business enterprise by her daughter was declared as required,” added Mabuyane.

The province has 270 people with Covid-19.