Sixty-one staff contract Covid-19 at two hospitals in Durban

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said on Sunday that health front-line workers have been hit hard by the Covid-19 second wave.
KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said on Sunday that health front-line workers have been hit hard by the Covid-19 second wave.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Sixty-one staff including doctors, nurses and clerks have tested positive for Covid-19 at two hospitals in Durban in the past two weeks.

Provincial health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu confirmed on Sunday that the affected hospitals were RK Khan and Addington Hospital.

“Over the past few hours, we have been inundated with media enquiries containing allegations of health-care workers and support staff being infected with Covid-19, at various hospitals in and around eThekwini district,” Simelane-Zulu said in a statement.

“We have also noted correspondence being widely distributed on social media, purportedly by staff, among others, alluding to these infections. It is with a deep sense of concern that we, indeed, confirm a significant rise in Covid-19 infections among health workers, which has become noticeable in recent weeks. Those who have borne the brunt of Covid-19 include our front-line staff, such as nurses, doctors, as well as allied health workers, administrative clerks, and general orderlies.”

Simelane-Zulu said 38 staff members had tested positive for Covid-19 at Addington Hospital since the beginning of December. Among them were five doctors, 11 nurses, one allied worker and 21 members of support stuff. She said the hospital had not been shut down and was “accepting walk-in patients”.

“Only those who are picked up by ambulance are being diverted to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial and King Edward VIII hospitals,” she said.

“At RK Khan Hospital, the total number of staff who have tested positive is 23, which is made up of seven nurses, 10 doctors, two radiologists, three clerks and one general orderly ... RK Khan Hospital is also open and rendering health-care services, while following strict Covid-19 infection prevention and control protocols.”

Announcing that SA was experiencing a resurgence of Covid-19 on November 9, health minister Zweli Mkhize listed KwaZulu-Natal among the four provinces driving the spread of the virus — along with the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

“It should be understood that health-care workers and other staff who work within the health environment form part of the ecosystem of broader society. By virtue of this, they will not be immune to epidemiological changes and other realities within society,” said Simelane-Zulu.

“But beyond that, given the sensitivity of their work environment, and their higher occupational risk exposure, health workers carry an additional burden of responsibility to take care of themselves, and follow the necessary Covid-19 precautions at all times. This is vital.”

Simelane-Zulu said the upsurge was caused by people who had become complacent about Covid-19 regulations.

“This was despite our constant warning about the possibility of a Covid-19 resurgence  and the need to adhere to the precautions. We are now learning the hard way how wrong those assumptions were.

“With the second wave now here, if the precautions are strictly followed, there actually lies an opportunity for health workers and the general SA public to buck the trend and avoid being part of the statistics from this global phenomenon. The resurgence of Covid-19 should be a turning point that galvanises society to work together to arrest, once and for all, the acquiring and further spread of the virus.”

She called for calm.

“Where we find ourselves now need not amount to a second wave of panic, which helps no-one; and instead sows fear, stigmatisation and the discrimination of staff and patients from those affected facilities,” said Simelane-Zulu.

According to Simelane-Zulu:

  • Over the past 24 hour reporting period, KwaZulu-Natal has reported 1,613 new Covid-19 cases, which brings the total number of infections to 139,366
  • At least 120,207 people have recovered. There were four more deaths in the province, bringing the number of fatalities to 3,457;
  • On Saturday December 12 the province had 1,335 patients admitted in both private and public hospitals.