Healthcare workers at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane had to stage a silent protest for the hospital management to agree to decontaminate the hospital.
Cecilia Makiwane Hospital (CMH) staff and management have reportedly reached an agreement that the public health facility will be decontaminated following negotiations between the workers’ organisation and the employer on Wednesday.
The CMH staff embarked on a silent protest and go-slow action on Tuesday and Wednesday to demand transparency from their bosses on the number of coronavirus infections at the hospital.
The CMH staff accused their bosses of lacking transparency on the matter by hiding the actual numbers of people infected by the virus in the facility.
They also complained that to continue to work without the provision of proper personal protection equipment (PPE) caused them to face a severe health risk after the death of three staff members on Monday.
Three earlier deaths at the state hospital were also linked to covid-19. 72 workers have tested positive with 53 of them originating from the ICU.
A male nurse in his 40s who preferred to remain anonymous complained they faced severe life risks while their employer has undermined their basic workers’ rights.
“What they do today contrasts what they stated yesterday. We were previously informed that the coronavirus patients will be accommodated in the hospital’s old section and attended by specially trained staff.
“We now got shocked to discover that such patients were being brought to the wards where we operated in, to be attended by us (normal nursing staff) without any prior consultations.
“Our management deployed us to continue to deal with that kind of risky situation still wearing the same green gowns we usually work with when we deal with the normal patients.
“No one cares we have got to use the same gear for the whole shift despite how contaminated it is,” said the traumatised looking nurse with ten years of experience.
A female nurse also grumbled that their bosses had turned the hospital into a death camp: “Kuyafiwa apha (People are dying here). We just face death here continuously in whatever we do. Our bosses have all of a sudden turned to become heartless monsters, who apparently wished to get all of us finished off by this deadly virus at once.”
She said that senior officials would force nurses who became infected not to tell their colleagues. “Should we all die in the same way without any serious intervention taken by the authorities?” she asked.
“That’s why we demand a total shutdown of this famous hospital so they can get things in a normal order,” protested the emotionally charged nurse. Security guards working at the hospital also complained of PPE shortage.
“They would provide us with half-filled bottles of sanitisers and nothing else would be provided afterwards,” said two concerned guards who spoke to Elitsha.
Zwelakhe Tywala, the secretary for NEHAWU’s Yure Mdyogolo Region in the Eastern Cape, said the CMH staffers participated in a prayer meeting on Wednesday for their three deceased colleagues after Tuesday’s silent protest.
The facility should have been decontaminated after the three deaths, as Tywala explained. “After a meeting with the CMH management we got into an agreement that the decontamination of the public health facility should take place… in different phases but they will not shut down the hospital as was previously demanded by the workers.”
He added that the issue of PPEs was no longer a bone of contention because the Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba’s office had already provided the equipment to CMH but it had not yet been provided to the workers.
“It’s apparently still kept in the hospital’s storeroom; maybe they are still waiting for days of major crisis before they can give it out to their employees.” The hospital management appeared to have the attitude that PPE is something employees can take care of themselves, according to Tywala.
Mzwandile Ngongoshe, an organiser for Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (HOSPERSA) said the CMH workers were not satisfied that the hospital would remain open, but compromised after their bosses agreed to decontaminate the facility.
“It is good that service is still rendered to the community but the government must ensure that they take good care of the frontline staff,” concluded Ngongoshe.
Renée Bezuidenhout, HOSPERSA’s Acting Provincial Manager, claimed that the Frontier Hospital in Queenstown currently has 89 coronavirus positive staff members, and Fort England Hospital in Makhanda, 48 . She added that most clinics in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage are affected daily, and that Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth, which was to be a quarantine hospital, has reported many cases.
Sizwe Kupelo, the Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson failed to respond to enquires.