51 Eastern Cape medical staff test positive as third health worker dies

The nurse was admitted to Cecilia Makiwane Hospital’s intensive care unit this week after being referred by Grey Hospital.
The nurse was admitted to Cecilia Makiwane Hospital’s intensive care unit this week after being referred by Grey Hospital.

A nurse died at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in East London on Friday morning, bringing to three the number of health workers who have succumbed to Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape.

It is understood that the nurse worked at Gateway clinic based at Grey Hospital in King William’s Town. She  was not employed by the provincial health department but by an NGO. 

A total of 51 workers in the province have tested positive for Covid-19 in the province. 

Provincial health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed the nurse’s death.   

“Some of the infected [health workers] are linked to funerals,” Kupelo said.

The nurse was admitted to Cecilia Makiwane Hospital’s intensive care unit this week after being referred by Grey Hospital.

A nurse at Grey Hospital who spoke to SowetanLIVE sister publication DispatchLIVE on condition of anonymity said medical personnel were scared after receiving word of the death.

“The workers are just scared. You know we have issues with protective gear that is scarce. We are not sure how we are going to deal with this. Every nurse is reluctant to come to work,” the nurse said.

“Grey Hospital is like a death trap. How many others are positive?”

Two nurses, in Port Elizabeth and Mthatha respectively, have also lost their lives to Covid-19.  

Department of correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo also confirmed to that a nurse at the East London Correctional Centre had tested positive for the virus.

“We appeal to the paper not to reveal the identity of the nurse who tested positive due to the stigma we are already subjected to by the public and business owners,” Nxumalo said.

“In order to avail immediate expertise in the management of infections, prevention and control measures, the department has appointed a medical advisory panel and an additional 393 nursing personnel.

“This measure is also aimed at strengthening the capacity of the department in dealing with Covid-19, particularly in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.”

East London-based cardiologist Dr David Kettles said it would be a “horrendous tragedy” to see more of those on the frontline dying because they did not have personal protective equipment [PPE].

“In medicine we understand that we face a certain degree of risk, but we must make very certain as a country that nurses are not dying unnecessarily,”  Kettles said. “In other words, they do not die because they haven’t been provided with the necessary [personal] protective equipment.

“For me, the death of any health care provider, even the potter or the guy who is cleaning, every single person on the frontline, is a tragedy, because they are dying in the course of helping other people.

“As governments and communities we need to make sure that their deaths are not caused by our lack of procurement of the needed supplies.”

Kettles said private hospitals were trying their best to protect employees.

“We are well cared for. I haven’t been exposed to PPE situations in the state hospitals, even though I do work at Frere [Hospital] occasionally. This thing is tough and is hurting everybody and we are under a lot of pressure as medical practitioners, but at St Dominic’s [where he works] we have all we need.”

As the Covid-19 infections are expected to peak during winter, Kettle said people should brace themselves.

“We have had a lot of time to prepare [for the peak of the coronavirus infections] and I would think that has brought about a lot of change,” he said.

“In our hospital, we’ve been able to see how the time has allowed us to adapt our plans for admissions, trying to keep non-Covid-19 people separate from Covid-19 [positive] people. So the time has been very useful.”

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