With over 300 health workers testing positive for Covid-19 at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (IALCH), it has been a battle for the remaining staff as well as the health system.
This is according to frustrated nurses who have spoken to the Daily News.
In her response, Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has said her department would be dispatching two teams of health-care workers to where they were most needed, with their first stop being IALCH.
The hospital suffered many shortages since the start of July because health workers had either tested positive for Covid-19 or been in isolation or quarantine.
A nurse said there were few to no nurses in some wards both day and night, and departments such as human resources had been closed due to Covid-19 cases. There were also few to no staff in the neurological ward, children’s ward, vascular ward and theatre.
“IALCH has a big problem which is getting bigger. They need to see that the hospital has a crisis. It has fallen. The staff are Covid-19 positive and so are the patients,” she said.
The nurse said those in charge were running around like “headless chickens”, trying to get enough staff to cover a shift.
Many had questioned why the hospital was still open despite the staff struggles.
During a recent march at the hospital, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) had demanded a moratorium on all elective theatre cases. Only emergency cases should be done, it said. However, another nurse said the theatre continued to operate as normal.
A health worker said one reason many health workers were getting infected was because although personal protective equipment (PPE) was available, it was not reaching them.
“Our PPE is locked up in operational managers’ offices and we don’t have access to visors,” the nurse said.
A nurse who lives in the nurses’ home with other health workers said every day an ambulance transported health workers to quarantine sites outside the hospital.
“You know your day is also going to come.”
Responding, Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane Zulu said the work supposed to be done by health workers now in isolation or in quarantine, at IALCH in particular, would be done by teams of health workers who would go where there is a shortage. The teams would move around as and when there is a need.
She said the teams would start at IALCH because it was most affected, but she did not say when the teams would start. The department would “properly investigate” the use and availability of PPE at the hospital.
Nehawu provincial secretary Ayanda Zulu said they had met the MEC and Head of Department last week. “They made an indication that they will send a team.”