Medical staff are concerned the worst is yet to come. “We are not even halfway through our Covid-19 vaccination rollout programme but what we saw unfolding this week was disastrous,” said a Gauteng doctor.
“We watched as people, some not even in their masks, collected and spread Covid-19 without a care in the world. Watching that felt like we reversed even the littlest strides that we had made.
“If we think Covid-19 has been bad, if we think hospitals have been strained, wait and see the true repercussions of it within a few weeks.”
Saphetha agreed. “We are damn worried about the impact of these protests, as we viewed them as superspreaders which will not only escalate the number of infections but also deaths,” he said.
Simelane said beside Covid-19 patients, hospitals were now full of trauma patients who had been stabbed, shot, burnt and run over by vehicles during the looting.
“In many instances, we’ve been unable to perform X-rays due to our staff’s inability to come to work,” she said.
“We have been unable to refer to refer patients from clinics, community health centres and district hospitals to the next level of care due to the civil unrest, which has resulted in some people losing their lives because we could not transfer them.”
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA said it was “sad that the threats of this violence were all over social media, but the employer failed to come up with contingency measures to protect the front-line workers”.
In Gauteng, the office of health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi said facilities were not as badly affected as in KwaZulu-Natal but the situation was being monitored.
Additional reporting by Suthentira Govender