Nelson Mandela Bay health care in disarray

Motherwell centre closed, disputes continue at Livingstone, Provincial hospitals

Staff at the Motherwell Community Health Centre have staged a sit-in, closing the facility to patients. They say they do not have enough personal protective equipment and that the centre has not been decontaminated after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19
TAKING IT EASY: Staff at the Motherwell Community Health Centre have staged a sit-in, closing the facility to patients. They say they do not have enough personal protective equipment and that the centre has not been decontaminated after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19
Image: WERNER HILLS

Public health care in Nelson Mandela Bay is in disarray with the Motherwell Community Health Centre closing its doors to patients and units at Livingstone Hospital not operating at full capacity.

The Herald reported on Thursday that staff at Provincial Hospital had also stopped washing linen, causing some patients not to be admitted, amid a dispute over personal protective equipment (PPE) and overtime pay that also affected Livingstone employees.

No patients have been allowed into the Motherwell Community Health Centre — a day clinic that serves 10 wards  — since Monday, with staff saying a colleague had contracted Covid-19 and they could not risk working because they did not have personal protective equipment.

When a team from The Herald visited the clinic on Thursday,  employees were sitting outside.

A staff member who did not want to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media said employees were informed on Monday that a colleague had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Since then, he said,  staff  had not received confirmation from the department of health on whether the centre would be decontaminated.

“We care about our community and want to help them but not at the risk of them contracting the virus,” he said.

Another staff member said employees had not received their promised PPE.

“We are waiting for the department to deliver the PPE so that we can continue serving the community,” she said.

A third staffer said several people who had visited the clinic last week had tested positive for Covid-19.

“There have been a number of people who tested positive here and then we heard about our colleague on Monday.

“The department is not looking out for us,” he said.

The staff member said employees were not on strike but were staging a sit-in until their demands were met.

“Here we service 10 wards. We want to work, we care about our community and want the best for them but the department needs to do their part,” he said.

Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said he was aware of the employees’ claims and  steps were being taken to assist people needing medical care.

These included in-service training for staff on Covid-19 “as most of them are not well informed about the disease”.

The West End and PE Central clinics had also been placed  on alert to assist patients, Kupelo said.

He confirmed that general assistants employed by the department had not yet received proper training in cleaning and sanitising the Motherwell centre and that the process of decontamination, in line with national guidelines, had been  read  out to staff so they could understand and “not demand ... beyond what is required”.

Asked about the delivery of PPE and further decontamination of the facility, Kupelo said the matter would be escalated to the relevant officials.

“I will raise this with the district manager as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Meanwhile, the  dispute between unions and management at Livingstone and Provincial hospitals continues.

Concerns have been raised that people who are critically injured at the weekend in car accidents and stabbings may have to be turned away due to severe staff shortages.

Staff have been on a go-slow amid claims that they do not have sufficient PPE as well as a dispute over overtime pay.

Nehawu Nelson Mandela Bay secretary Sweetness Stokwe said on Thursday the situation remained unchanged.

She said she visited the casualty unit at Livingstone earlier in the day after reports that the unit had been closed, but said it was still operating, only at a slow pace.

She added that the unit was also extremely dirty and unsanitary.

“With the ban lifted on the consumption of alcohol, the number of casualties is expected to increase at the weekend,” she said.

“More and more members are self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, adding pressure to those who are at work.”

She said the general assistants were expected to pick up the extra workload without any extra pay.

A source at Livingstone, who did not want to be named, said the physician-on-call unit was not operating because it was not being cleaned.

“The unit is disgusting. It is filthy and smelling. There are fluids and blood all over.

“It is a mess. That is a unit where people who are seen at casualty go for extra tests, so it is a worry,” he said.

Department of health spokesperson Siyanda Manana was unavailable to comment on the situation at Livingstone on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Manana said the department was aware of the go-slow.

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