Ekurhuleni hospital accused of risking workers' lives

The Far East Rand Hospital in Ekurhuleni. / Len Kumalo
The Far East Rand Hospital in Ekurhuleni. / Len Kumalo

Staff members at the Far East Rand Hospital in Springs, Ekurhuleni, fear for their safety after the hospital management allegedly forced them to return to work after some of their colleagues apparently tested positive for Covid-19.

They said the hospital management expected them to continue working despite the fact that the hospital was not disinfected after four laundry workers and a porter were sent home after they tested positive for the deadly coronavirus strain last week.

Speaking to Sowetan on condition of anonymity, for fear of victimisation, the staff members said they were instructed by the hospital manager to not talk about the positive cases of Covid-19 at the hospital.

"The hospital manager held separate unit meetings on Monday where staff members were told to not say anything about those who tested positive.

"We were made to raise our hands as a confirmation that we will not say a word about the cases," said a staff member.

"The manager also told us we should not share this information on social media platforms.

"We are being forced to come to work despite the fact that the hospital was [not] fumigated since last week.

"Only one unit was closed and but now it's business as usual."

A laundry worker said their colleagues who tested positive were told to stay at home, while others were informed to report for duty regardless of having being in contact with those who tested positive.

"We have been in contact with some of our colleagues who tested positive but we were not allowed to self-quarantine while waiting for our results," the worker said.

She said all laundry workers were tested for Covid-19.

"It would have made sense if they allowed us to self-isolate until we know our status.

"It is a very scary situation to work under such circumstances as we don't know what would happen to us. We are risking our lives here," added the worker.

A nurse at the hospital echoed the sentiments of other workers and also lamented the lack of the personal protective equipment at the hospital.

"We are in serious danger of contracting this virus and the hospital management seems to be caring less about our safety," said the nurse.

"Our hospital does not take the pandemic seriously because not enough has been done to protect us and to curb the spread of the Covid-19."

One of the porters said he wanted to take emergency leave because he also feared for his life but was refused.

"I'm in total panic because I might be infected anywhere in this hospital. This means I will then infect my family.

"I cannot even keep record of how many people I have been in contact with in one day, so if I later test positive not only my colleagues will be infected but other people back home," said the porter.

A staff member who tested positive told Sowetan they were informed by the hospital management by telephone about their results last week.

"I was told that I was one of those who tested positive and that I should stay at home. Part of me is angry because I feel that I was compromised since the lockdown," said the worker.

"I'm praying for my life as I'm currently in self-isolation. My family has been very supportive and I'm positive that I will overcome this virus.

"I just need to remain positive throughout this process."

Gauteng health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said to date 609 employees have been tested at the Far East Rand Hospital, with two testing positive (one being a porter and another laundry worker), while 341 tested negative.

Kekana said 266 tests were pending.

"The provincial department of health and the Ekurhuleni district were immediately informed about the two cases," Kekana said.

She said the hospital began testing all workers on April 18. The first positive case was reported to the management on Monday.

"The CEO personally called the affected employees to inform them of their statuses," Kekana said.

On Tuesday, the testing area and laundry were disinfected, decontaminated and fogged.

She said so far all the laundry staff members were also tested.

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