56 staff at one Eastern Cape hospital test positive for Covid-19

The staff members from a number of medical wards tested positive last week.
The staff members from a number of medical wards tested positive last week.
Image: 123RF/Dario Lo Presti

Frontier Hospital staff in Komani fear for their lives and are demanding that the hospital be closed to the public after 56 employees, including doctors, tested positive for Covid-19.

The staff members from a number of medical wards tested positive last week after tests were done by the health department.

The Democratic Nurses Organisation of SA (Denosa) said some Covid-19 patients had been transferred from the Komani Psychiatric Hospital and admitted at Frontier. But the health department said there must be no discrimination on “who has come with the virus”.

Denosa regional chair Andisile Pampila said they were struggling to cope with so many  staff members testing positive, and nursing mentally ill patients at Frontier created extra challenges for hospital staff.

“People with mental challenges wont comply with these Covid-19 regulations so they end up roaming around the hospital. They do not even wear masks, and the nurses end up having to attend to those issues as well,” he said.

In May, Frontier staff downed tools, demanding they be trained to deal with Covid-19 patients and a joint operations committee that included organised labour representatives be established. They also called for the removal of the CEO, Sindiswa Tywabi.

“The new management has arrived without a plan and a solution for this.

“The staff who are now at the hospital are working under pressure because some are on quarantine, and some in self-isolation waiting for their results. They fear for their lives. They want this hospital closed and fumigated," Pampila said.

However, health superintendent-general Thobile Mbengashe said Komani Psychiatric Hospital was not geared to handle sick patients.

“We cant stigmatise mental health patients and say they must be treated elsewhere. If their medical condition requires that they come to the hospital, we need to provide them with the same care.”

He said there were specialists at Frontier and trained teams who knew how to manage their conditions.

The department had established occupational health and safety and infection control teams to deal with infections among health workers, he added.

We are also making sure there are strong teams in hospitals to make sure that infection among health workers is kept to the minimum.”

Nurses say some shifts have too few nurses on duty because of fear.

They say in some cases nine people will work instead of 30.

“We will have to verify [that] nine people have been working night shift," Mbengashe said.

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