Nurses stay off work due to Covid-19 fear and lack of PPEs

Healthcare workers at Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital downed tools after alleging they were not told a colleague tested positive for Covid-19. / SUPPLIED
Healthcare workers at Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital downed tools after alleging they were not told a colleague tested positive for Covid-19. / SUPPLIED

Healthcare workers in Gauteng are taking a stand against the lack of support and personal protective equipment (PPEs), downing tools at a number of facilities.

Employees at Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital in Krugersdorp on the West Rand refused to report for duty after a worker allegedly tested positive for Covid-19.

The workers said their gripe was that not all employees are screened, tested and quarantined. They also said the continued lack of PPE has further placed their lives in danger.

On Monday, Braamfischerville Clinic in Soweto was closed after a worker was suspected of contracting the virus. Mofolo and Zola clinics, also in Soweto, were both shut down last week due to similar concerns. Mofolo Clinic is undergoing fumigation while the Braamfischerville and Zola clinics remain closed.

Workers refused to report for duty as they felt the facility managers failed to inform them about the development.

Lerato Madumo, from the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU), told Sowetan the managers' practices left workers exposed to the virus.

"The department has set out regulations to be followed when someone tests positive or is suspected of having the virus. But we find that those are not being followed. We are finding that managers are telling workers who have tested positive or are showing symptoms not to tell their colleagues.

"We find this trend to be disturbing. That's why facilities are being closed because workers are still subjected to working in that same environment. The facilities are not closed and disinfected, it's business as usual. Matrons are telling cleaners to buy Jik and clean the surfaces as if that's going to help," she said.

A nurse at Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital, who cannot be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media, said there were inconsistencies in how facilities handled infections of staff members.

"Last week someone tested positive, but they didn't close the ward that person works in. Their colleagues were tested, but the environment was not cleaned. But the kitchen at Yusuf Dadoo was closed when someone tested positive."

A nurse at Braamfischerville Clinic said they got angry after learning a colleague was instructed to self-quarantine after displaying symptoms of Covid-19.

"Our head matron didn't tell us that a colleague could possibly have Covid. We found out after asking each other what had happened to them because we didn't know where they were. It's unfair that our lives are being disregarded even though we are at the frontline," she said.

A nurse at Zola Clinic lamented the lack of adequate PPE. "Someone was confirmed to be positive but we don't have sufficient PPEs. This places our lives in danger."

Health department spokesperson Kwara Kekena said there was adequate stock of sanitisers and PPEs. She said disinfection takes place after an outbreak is reported.

"The department has 72 employees who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Gauteng, the initial cohort contracted it in their various social circles. There are 26 recoveries thus far."

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