Covid-19: Hospital staff picket in Pietermaritzburg

Workers demand better protection from infection

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Staff at Northdale Hospital picketed for the second time in a week. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

Staff at Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg picketed on Tuesday inside the hospital’s premises demanding safer working conditions including more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE’s). This is the second picket in a week.

Staff carried placards and sang.

A nurse who asked not to be named said conditions in the hospital were not safe for staff or patients during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Patients who have tested positive are put in the same ward with patients who have other illnesses. We have raised that with the management but they have failed to listen and correct that. Covid-19 positive patients use the same bathrooms. They are not separated from other patients,” said the nurse.

She claimed patients did not have enough food. “Family members are not allowed to bring in food for their loved ones. We witness patients having nothing to eat because hospital food is not enough.”

Another nurse who also spoke under condition of anonymity said the hospital was opening more wards to take in Covid-19 positive patients but staff were not trained on how to handle infections.

“Communication is very poor. There is a shortage of staff and PPE. We have to keep wearing the same gowns which is not safe. Sometimes a positive patient asks for help and I can’t go and help because I’m not wearing PPE,” said the nurse.

Deputy secretary for National Education,Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) in the Harry Gwala Region Sihle Makhaye said workers were at risk and management was “avoiding meetings”.

“Workers are getting infected but the number of workers who have tested positive is not disclosed. Workers are forced to work while they are waiting for the results.”

Spokesperson for the Department of Health Ntokozo Maphisa said, “There is no shortage of food in the hospital. In fact, not only are three meals served each day but an additional tea and bread in the evening after supper.” Food from visitors was prohibited to combat the spread of Covid-19, he said.

On other issues Maphisa said: “The Department will not be responding to labour issues that are currently being resolved.”

TOPICS:  Covid-19

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