The health department superintendent-general (SG) has cautioned Frontier Hospital staff against breaking lockdown rules during their ongoing picket, warning that if they continued they would soon be admitted as Covid-19 patients.
The SG, Thobile Mbengashe, addressed the staff following an ongoing protest which lasted for more than a week, over the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of training of nurses to deal with coronavirus patients and the shortage of staff, among other matters.
Mbengashe visited the hospital towards the end of April when staff had spent days of downed tools, promising to bring additional staff and provide the PPE the next week, as they were the most urgent in the fight to curb the spread of the virus.
The Rep reported (Protesting for their lives, May 1) that former Frontier Hospital CEO Sindiswa Tywabi had said there were guidelines to determine which type of PPE was to be used.
Mbengashe, who was met with hostility by staff for first meeting with the hospital management before them because he was called by them, said the nurses had broken their oath by leaving patients unattended but he would not penalise them.
“I have not taken any action against you for leaving patients unattended because I believe you have genuine concerns about your safety. You have been out of the wards for more than a week and there are rules for picketing and striking. We are now breaking the lockdown rules. We are not supposed to be gathered here in the first place, let alone a congregation of more than 50 people and stand as closely as we are doing right now.
“I have indicated to you before that no one should go into a ward with Covid-19 patients without the proper PPE, and if anyone forces you to, you can tell them I said so. There are a number of issues related to appointment of staff and I have set up a team to look into those matters and fast-track the appointment of people required to do critical work.”
He warned staff that in the next two months or so there would be thousands of Covid-19 patients coming to the hospital seeking help and staff needed to be prepared.
“I want us to work hard now to ensure that we are ready and protected when we are faced with an influx of Covid-19 patients. The CEO, Tywabi, has taken up a new position as the department of health district chief director and I will place an acting manager to take over her responsibilities as of Tuesday this week.”
Mbengashe was taken on a tour of the hospital to be shown conditions staff had to work under, which they hoped would also be addressed. They returned to work after the meeting with the SG.