'We don't know if we are killing patients'

The busy entrance to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital where pharmacy workers have tested positive for Covid-19./ANTONIO MUCHAVE
The busy entrance to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital where pharmacy workers have tested positive for Covid-19./ANTONIO MUCHAVE

The numbers of healthcare workers who have tested positive for Covid-19 are on the rise in SA, with Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital being the latest facility to report employees who have contracted the virus.

Though the Gauteng department of health confirmed to Sowetan that six pharmacy employees tested positive for Covid-19, their colleagues said they were also fearing for their lives.

"The Gauteng department of health can confirm that six pharmacy employees have tested positive at Charlotte Maxeke [Johannesburg] Academic Hospital.

"The team has already started the process of tracing all possible contacts and testing other workers. The disinfecting of the particular pharmacy they work at is also procedure," said provincial health spokesperson Kwara Kekana.

Employees said they came to know of the first positive case on Friday when they were called for a meeting and requested to test for Covid-19.

They said they continue working while they do not know what their results are, posing a danger to other employees and patients. The employees have asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

"We were not sure whether we were helping or killing the patients we have to attend to while awaiting the tests," said one of the pharmacy staff.

They said their calls to be allowed to self-isolate at home fell on deaf ears.

Another said what was making matters worse was lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Addington Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal also has a number of confirmed Covid-19 cases among staff.

"In cases where healthcare workers may be infected, government is obliged to provide the necessary care and treatment, mapping and tracing their contacts is also conducted so that they too can be screened and tested along with their patients in order to curb the spread of the virus." said KZN health spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa.

Meanwhile, the National Health Care Professionals Association (NHPCA) has drafted a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa with their demands, among others:

  • The exemption of tax on all healthcare professionals working in the public and private sector for three months;
  • Providing of personal protective equipment;
  • The removal of VAT on all medical consumables; and
  • The removal of all bank interest for healthcare workers who opt for an instalment holiday for three months.

"We strongly believe a healthcare worker remains a vital piece of this war as they risk their lives and their families lives, therefore we believe they should be compensated for the risks they incur," said chairperson Donald Gumede.

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