- The Eastern Cape Department of Health has accused its healthcare workers of being the source of infections within its healthcare facilities
- Many healthcare workers have decided to protest and stay away from work or refuse to treat patients as well due to the unavailability of PPE (personal protection equipment)
- The department has not denied that attention needs to be directed towards educating staff on procedures relating to dealing with the coronavirua as well
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By Johnnie Isaac - Freelance Journalist
The Eastern Cape provincial department has been instructed by the provincial cabinet to take action against healthcare professionals who are refusing to treat patients in the provincial health facilities.
This follows the waves of staff protests from various healthcare facilities in the province. Healthcare workers have complained about unavailability of personal protective equipment, accusing management of certain hospitals of forcing them to attend to patients without PPE.
They say they are are fearing for their lives after seeing a growing number of Covid-19 infections and deaths among their colleagues.
However, the provincial cabinet claims that healthcare workers are letting their fears stop them from doing their work and are using the lack of PPE as a scapegoat.
Speaking for the provincial government, Eastern Cape Premier Spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha said:
"All hospitals have PPE. The cabinet is concerned by what comes across as fear of some health workers to care for people with the virus. We cannot have healthcare workers fearing to attend to patients. Health as the department was tasked to address that."
To date the Eastern Cape has had at least 258 coronavirus infections among its healthcare workers and 14 of them have succumbed and died due to the virus. On growing numbers of infections among healthcare workers, the Eastern Cape Health Department said most of these infections were transported by the healthcare staff to the facilities.
Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba said they have an example of a nurse who went to fetch her Covid-19-positive daughter from Cape Town who subsequently died as a result of the virus. Gomba said the nurse concealed the incident from her colleagues due to fears of stigma.
"The staff member never treated a Covid-19 patient in our facilities, we only found out after she tested positive that she was also looking after her Covid-19-positive daughter who later passed on, but she never told anyone about that," said Gomba.
She was echoed by Eastern Cape Health Superintendent General Doctor Thobile Mbengashe:
"We really think that some of our staff come with infections from the community. One extraordinary example is what has happened at Esidimeni in Kirkwood. These are frail communities and patients who have been kept in hospital and have not moved anywhere but they have actually been infected due to someone from our staff."
Dr Mbengashe added:
"We are worried about the levels of vigilance of our teams and the levels of keeping social distance, wearing masks and understanding that hospitals are not the source of infections."
The department said it is working on educating its healthcare workers to understand their role and the Covid-19 regulations.
Gomba said there is a lack of understanding of Covid-19 regulations and guidelines among healthcare workers.
"We still have a long way to go, to make them confident and understand the regulations such as we don't need to close the entire hospital if there was an infection or a death. We can only clean the infected area. We also need to make them understand that testing is only meant for close contacts of the infected person," she said.
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