Uitenhage hospital staff down tools after patient tests positive for Covid-19

If there is no personal protective equipment, don’t resume any duties, says union

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Photo of staff sitting in a yard
Staff sat in the yard on Tuesday afternoon to have a meeting at Laetitia Bam Day Hospital in Kwanobuhle after downing tools. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Over 40 staff downed tools at the Laetitia Bam Day Hospital in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage, on Tuesday, citing a lack of protective equipment. Protesting porters, nurses and general workers sat in the yard. Dozens of patients stared through the palisade fence before being turned away by security guards who told them Laetitia Bam was now “dangerous”.

The protest comes after a patient tested last Tuesday was confirmed to have Covid-19 on Friday, according to NEHAWU shop steward Lindile Cakwebe.

“We now demand that all of us be tested. The management here want to fumigate only the trauma section where the patient had been attended to, but we are saying the whole hospital must be fumigated,” said Cakwebe.

Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said, “We are busy addressing this and compiling a circular for disinfecting the facilities. We are in the process of outsourcing the decontamination of facilities routinely, depending on the budget.”

At a meeting held by the protesting staff, a male nurse said, “We are in the fire … testing and screening patients, yet we don’t have the Personal Protective Equipment [PPE].”

NEHAWU regional secretary Busiswa Stokwe said the union fully supported the downing of tools. “Don’t compromise your lives. If there is no PPE, don’t resume any duties.”

Stokwe said, “They [management] must charge you … and as the union we will defend you … These people [Department of Health] are the same people who claimed in court and won the case [saying] that they have PPEs … Now they must provide the PPEs they claimed they have.”

“If anyone of you has tested positive and continues to work, you will be transferring the virus to poor communities and to your families because you use jikeleza informal taxis and meet families after work.”

“We were even fighting, asking how did the management arrive for Laetitia Bam to be a testing site? There are patients who are here for chronic treatment who are already weak. Now you take the centre of testing to that institution,” said Stokwe.

TOPICS:  Covid-19 Health Unions

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