Poor management has been blamed for 150 staff members contracting the coronavirus at Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital in Soweto.
Acting Gauteng Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo revealed in an oral reply to questions posed in the provincial legislature on Tuesday by the DA’s Gauteng spokesperson on health, Jack Bloom, about the high number of infections at the hospital in Jabulani.
This amounted to one in seven of the 1 050 staff being infected, according to Bloom.
The alarming spread of the deadly virus comes after the hospital’s chief executive, Ruth Mabyana, was placed on precautionary suspension after a psychiatric patient allegedly stabbed 85-year-old Kholisile Edwin Zazayokwe to death in May.
Mamabolo said that there were ongoing investigations that would decide Mabyana’s fate.
An insider at the facility, who asked to remain anonymous, said on Wednesday they believed that the number of staff infections was more than 150.
“The department of health came to the hospital about two weeks ago, if I’m not mistaken, and management told them this 150 number but that has probably gone up,” the insider said.
The source added that on July 28, there were about 43 patients in the hospital who allegedly tested positive for Covid-19 in the casualty ward.
“On the weekend, the main entrance is closed and staff members enter through casualty. It means we are mixed with patients and relatives that need to be escorted to wards,” the insider said.
The source added that the staff members are working under a cloud of fear.
Another worker at the hospital said that initially not everyone complied with the instruction to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
“There were times when we would be working in the office and people weren’t wearing masks but it’s now better. People are complying with the regulations because this new acting CEO is hands on.”
Mamabolo said on Wednesday that when he visited the hospital to check on the PPE stock a few weeks ago, he came across challenges that he intended to address today at another site visit.
“It’s a commitment I made to go back to the hospital. I want get to the bottom of the challenges at that hospital including every issue that relates to Covid-19 infections in staff, get better information by meeting management and workers,” he said.
Mamabolo added there would be a formal meeting with management and staff to ensure that swift action was taken to address the challenges at the hospital.
“I’m going to verify all the data relating to everything at the hospital including the issue of the suspended CEO, data about Covid-19 and whether there is under-reporting or over-reporting, the credibility of the data, feeling of workers, current stock levels of PPE. There is also a complaint that workers are being victimised by management. I need to check that as well,” Mamabolo said.
Bloom said the hospital had been badly managed since it was opened with “great expectations” in 2014 and added that its jobs-for-cash scandal and persistent labour relation problems placed it on the list of worst-run hospitals in Gauteng.
“Poor management is a major factor in the high number of staff infected with Covid-19 because of poor infection control and a lack of quality PPE,” Bloom said.
He added there needed to be a change of top management to rectify deep-seated problems that “grievously” hurt staff and patients.
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union spokesperson Khaya Xaba said it condemned the reckless endangerment of front-line health workers.