One of the Eastern Cape’s most important rural hospitals has become a ghost facility after doctors and nurses walked out, leaving patients to fend for themselves or rely on managers for treatment, reports DispatchLIVE.
The decision by most of the health workers at Tafalofefe Hospital in Centane to abandon their stations brought home the reality of an ongoing health crisis fuelled by a stand-off between the health department, and health workers, represented by unions.
The report says it has come at a time when the province can least afford it, with the Eastern Cape second only to the Western Cape in terms of COVID-19 fatalities. The beleaguered health department has come under fire from unions for not providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), while a culture of fear is rife among medical personnel who refuse to put their own lives at risk.
Three staff members, including a doctor, have tested positive for COVID-19. One of them, according to the health department, was rushed to an East London private hospital in critical condition. A hospital clerk died last week, although the department said the death was not COVID-19-related.
DispatchLIVE reports that there are more than 100 people working at the hospital. They are demanding proper protective gear, more testing kits, the hospital to be disinfected, the decontamination of work stations, and managers to refrain from instructing staff who test COVID-positive not to disclose their status to colleagues.
Two patients at the main gate of the hospital, confirmed that they were not being attended to. One patient said nurses told them they should leave the hospital. “After a meeting the nurses decided to leave the hospital. We thought at least we will have a few to take care of us, but that was not the case,” the patient, who wanted to remain anonymous, said. “We hope the management can handle this.”
Judy Ngoloyi, spokesperson for Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, told DispatchLIVE that the department was meeting with officials and board members to deal with issues at the hospital. “There are those who are currently outside the hospital protesting but we do have a few who are assisting inside the hospital. It is not a total shutdown of the hospital. Their challenges are being dealt with,” she said.
Full DispatchLIVE report