Medics stop work at KZN hospital as fears mount over deaths and Covid-19 cases

south african hospitals

Durban – Nurses and doctors have halted operations at Rietvlei Hospital, in ­Umzimkhulu, in southern KwaZulu-Natal demanding that the facility be sanitised after patients and nurses tested positive for Covid-19 this week.

The health workers have stopped working, fearing that more staff may contract the virus.

According to a worker who asked not to be named fearing reprisal, a patient who was admitted on June 16, tested positive and subsequently passed away. The worker feared that the district hospital with over 200 patients could spread the infection in the rural area of Umzimkhulu if proactive measures were ignored.

He added that two nurses who treated the patient also tested positive, but the ward in which the patient was treated had not been disinfected.

He claimed management refused to close the wards and disinfect the affected hospital as per the instruction from the health department.

“This has caused health workers to panic and we have decided to halt the operation of the hospital. Until all our grievances are attended to, only emergency wards will operate because we do not feel safe. We have had several meetings with the hospital management but they still refuse to take our advice,” he said.

A medical practitioner also complained about the fear brought on by the incidents. He said as the tracing continued it appeared that the nurses have made contact with many staff and patients.

“The operation in the hospital has been affected badly and we are concerned about those serving food. We believe disinfection and mass testing will save many people because everyone is walking without knowing their status. The patient died in the ward and the body was kept in the mortuary because the result came late. The work continues as nothing happened yet we are working in fear,” said the doctor.

Ntokozo Maphisa, spokesperson for the KZN Department of Health said they did not have authority to confirm positive Covid-19 cases, as this was the sole preserve of the Minister of Health (Zweli Mkhize).

“As a matter of principle, where positive Covid-19 cases have been identified, contact mapping and tracing is conducted, as well as the screening, testing, and quarantining of people who have come into contact with the affected individual(s), and the isolation of those who test positive. Where necessary and warranted by a formal risk assessment exercise, the affected section of a health facility may be temporarily closed to allow for decontamination,” he said.

Maphisa said all the efforts were in line with infection control and prevention guidelines from the World Health Organization. He added that management and staff at the hospital were trained and equipped to follow these protocols.

“All of the department’s facilities where staff have tested positive are either in the process of being decontaminated or have already been,” said Maphisa.

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