Stay-away brings another EC hospital to the brink of collapse

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Yet another Eastern Cape hospital is on the brink of collapse because stay-away actions by general assistants, including porters and hospital cleaners, and nurses have been refusing to return to large parts of the hospital as these areas have not been deep cleaned, leaving doctors battling to keep patients alive.

The maternity unit at Dora Nginza Hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay had all but collapsed last week as six exhausted doctors who had been fighting to keep patients alive, delivering babies and doing emergency C-sections battled on, sometimes with the help of a single nurse. Daily Maverick reports that general assistants, including porters and hospital cleaners, and nurses have been refusing to return to large parts of the hospital as these areas have not been deep cleaned after a patient or an employee with COVID-19 had been there.

Several sections of the hospital had been closed off since 8 June after unions demanded that the units were cleaned first before staff resumed work. The Paediatric Wellness Clinic was closed after eight nurses tested positive. One of the nurses, who was diabetic, later died. A casualty ward for children under 12 was closed after staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Family Medicine Chronic Clinic was closed after staff tested positive for the virus.

Daily Maverick reports that as hospitals elsewhere in the Nelson Mandela Metro reached capacity, Dora Nginza Hospital was flooded with COVID-19 patients seeking help. Since Monday morning last week almost no nurses and general assistants were present to assist at the maternity unit. The hospital has 19 pregnant patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. Women waiting for emergency C-sections are lined up as there is only one theatre open. Some have been waiting for more than a day. The only doctor who did the surgery also cleaned the theatre between patients. The laundry is not operational.

The report says on the other side of the hospital at the paediatric unit, doctors and nurses are receiving a fraction of their daily orders for personal protective equipment. “We are lucky if we receive five,” one doctor said. They have to batch their patients together and wear the same personal protective equipment (PPE) repeatedly, otherwise patients can’t be helped. The pharmacy was closed three weeks ago after personnel tested positive for COVID-19, leaving doctors without access to basic medicine. “We can’t understand where our PPE is going,” one hospital source said.

According to Daily Maverick, Sandile Mpepho from labour union Nehawu said workers were not on strike, but that there was an agreement with the Eastern Cape Health Department that they did not have to work in areas where people had tested positive for COVID-19 until those areas had been deep cleaned.

“There are so many people with COVID-19 seeking help at Dora Nginza hospital now and they are sleeping on the floor everywhere,” Mpepho said. “Our agreement said we do not have to work in those areas until the area has been deep cleaned and sanitised,” he said.

Eastern Cape Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo could not provide answers on any planned interventions to stabilise services at the hospital, but said the National Health Department was in the process of formulating a policy that would deal with the deep cleaning issue.

Full Daily Maverick report

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