Covid-19 case at Uitenhage Provincial Hospital

Uitenhage Provincial Hospital has confirmed its first Covid-19 case. On Friday nursing staff protested outside the hospital saying if there were no tests there would be no work
EXPRESSING CONCERN: Uitenhage Provincial Hospital has confirmed its first Covid-19 case. On Friday nursing staff protested outside the hospital saying if there were no tests there would be no work

A nurse in the maternity ward of the Uitenhage Provincial Hospital has tested positive for Covid-19.

The nurse received her results on Wednesday. Staff members protested outside the facility on Friday,  accusing the management of negligence by failing to follow proper Covid-19 decontamination procedures and inform staff of their colleague’s status in good time.

The protesting staff said the hospital management team had put the health and safety of newborn babies, mothers and nurses at risk.

The 27-year-old nurse said she had been ill since last week, and on Monday she had lost her senses of taste and smell.

“On Monday I was feeling a bit better, so I went to work. [When I got to work] I was screened and I had a lot of symptoms that related to corona,” she said.

“I was tested the same morning by a doctor, who then booked me off sick for two days. On Wednesday I got my results.”

She said hospital management had arranged for her to be taken to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium isolation facility on Thursday.

“I feel good now,” she said on Friday morning. “The fever is gone, God is with me. My family and close friends, together with my colleagues support, is amazing.”

An irate employee, who worked closely with the patient and asked not to be named, said she had not been contacted to self-isolate, let alone being informed that her colleague had tested positive.

“My colleague called me last night. She was very worried and in tears. She told me that she was asked not to speak to anyone but she felt the moral obligation to tell me that she had tested positive for the virus.

“We worked together so she wanted me to get tested as well. It baffles me why management would not call me — maybe they have not yet started the tracking process,” she said.

The staff member said when she arrived for her shift on Friday morning she had joined her protesting colleagues, not because she did not want to work, but because her life had been put in danger by management.

Another issue raised by staff members during the protest was the screening system at the hospital.

“The nurse who tested positive had been filling in the screening sheet, ticking in most of the boxes, yet no-one stood up to say ‘no, she must stay at home.

“Its like they do not care about our livelihood,” the staff members said.

Nehawu regional secretary Sweetness Stokwe said the union was disappointed about how management had handled the matter.

“We were informed that only one person was asked to self-isolate, and that person is someone who uses the same transport as the others.

“What about the patients she was treating and her shift?

“They share the same toilet, and there is a high possibility that she, the Covid-19 patient, could also infect patients,” Stokwe said.

She said the union had met with the hospital management team on Friday to discuss proper decontamination of the hospital and tracing of staff.

“I am not saying the hospital must shut down. However, you cannot disinfect a space with everyone still in it.

“Management should at least inform staff and have the ward evacuated in order to properly decontaminate the facility. Moreover, nurses need to be placed in self-isolation, and if a shadow staff needs to be brought in then that must be done,” she said.

Department of health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed that members from the district department had held a meeting at the hospital.

“One of the issues raised was that one of the employees who was in contact with the Covid-19 patient was not tested.

“We have agreed to test the nurse. However, we have also explained a test at this stage would most likely give a false negative,” Kupelo said, adding that they had advised the nurse to wait a week before getting tested.

He said the staff had further asked that the management be changed. However, the issue of labour relations was not a simple matter, he said.

Kupelo failed to respond to questions regarding the nurses allegations of poor screening procedures and the delay in being notified of their colleague testing positive.