A Bhisho Hospital matron died from Covid-19 on Tuesday night.
The matron, who worked in all six hospital wards at the Bhisho facility, tested positive for the virus on Saturday. She died at St Dominic’s Hospital.
Her death was confirmed by health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo on Wednesday.
“The Covid-19 positive results [were] received on May 16, when she was admitted at the hospital,” said Kupelo.
A nurse at Bhisho Hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorised to speak to the media, told DispatchLIVE they were told on Monday that their boss had contracted Covid-19 and was fighting for her life in ICU.
“Our management waited the entire weekend [to tell us]. We were still admitting people [to the hospital],” she said.
“The matron moved around all the wards. She dealt with reports and other logistics, and now she is gone because of Covid-19. We fear that most of the people she came in contact with — patients and nurses — might be positive.”
She said when they arrived at the hospital on Monday, management appeared “scared” to enter the building.
“We asked management why they were not entering the building when we were working and there were patients inside. What about us?”
The nurse said only half the building was fumigated. “We were told there is no budget to fumigate the entire building.”
The nurses then decided to down tools. “We told them we would only return to work once the entire premises has been fumigated. So we discharged some patients and transferred those who were critical and those in labour to other hospitals.”
According the nurse, there were six confirmed Covid-19 cases among Bhisho Hospital staff.
“Those people have since been taken into quarantine by the department of health. Those staff members had the courage to tell us as colleagues because this is a sensitive issue.
“But we are concerned that people in different sections of the hospital have tested positive for Covid-19. We are not feeling safe.”
She said the personal protective equipment [PPE] provided by the health department were “just gowns that offer no protection at all”.
The nurse said Bhisho Hospital did not have an isolation room to accommodate patients suspected of having Covid-19 who were still waiting for their results.
“There’s a patent we admitted last week showing symptoms of Covid-19. So we tested her and sent her to a normal ward because we don’t have a place to isolate people.”
Kupelo said: “An isolation ward is made available when there is a patient with a communicable disease.
“People under investigation are kept strictly quarantined (not mixed with other patients) while waiting [for] results.”
Nurses at the SS Gida provincial hospital in Keiskammahoek have also accused the health department of hiding the status of patients from them until they have either recovered or died.
A nurse at the hospital said the results of a patient who died at the weekend were not disclosed until after he was declared dead. The nurses said this was not the first incident.
One nurse said: “They’re hiding [Covid-19 patients’] information from us. This shows negligence from the managers’ side. The patient was considered a ‘patient under investigation’ until he died.
“We had to use our contacts at the lab to find out he had tested positive. It was kept from us. They still don’t know that we know the patient tested positive for Covid-19, so they must find out from the media that we know they are hiding information.”
Kupelo said the nurses’ allegations were viewed in a very serious light, and they should report any such alleged breaches immediately as “they themselves have a role to play”.
He said there should be collective responsibility in preventing unnecessary spread of the virus.
By Mfundo Piliso and Soyiso Maliti – DispatchLive