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Now Libode hospital staff strike over protective gear

Workers at St Barnabas Hospital in Ntlaza near Libode demand personal protective clothing to deal with Covid-19 patients.
Workers at St Barnabas Hospital in Ntlaza near Libode demand personal protective clothing to deal with Covid-19 patients.
Image: LULAMILE FENI

Staff at St Barnabas Hospital in Libode have embarked on a strike to compel the provincial government to provide them with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to deal with patients who have tested positive for Covid-19.

Their strike follows another at Glen Grey Hospital in Cacadu this week.

Three patients were being treated at St Barnabas until one of them, who was in critical condition, was moved to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha.  

The striking employees include nurses, doctors and administration workers.

The workers decided to strike after the critical patient  was admitted to the hospital last Thursday and nothing was done to protect health workers.

One of the workers, speaking on condition of anonymity as they are not permitted to speak to the media,  said they were being taken for granted and exposed to the virus because they were a small rural hospital.

“We have no facility here for critical Covid-19 patients. This patient was supposed to have been taken directly to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha.

The nurses and doctors here, who have no adequate PPEs, have to treat the patients but they are putting themselves at risk.

“The nurses and doctors here, who have no adequate PPEs, have to treat the patients but they are putting themselves at risk.

“We fear for the nurses and doctors who treat patients without having adequate PPE.”

He said there were three doctors and more than five nurses who had treated the patient without having adequate protective gear. 

“For the hospital to be small and rural does not mean that workers should be disadvantaged and their health put at risk.”

On Wednesday, striking workers protested near the hospital gate while their leaders met with hospital management and a delegation from the health department’s OR Tambo district.

Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo confirmed that the  workers were on strike.

“We are looking into it. But the issue of PPE is being addressed. There is a director from the  national department who has been brought in to assist the province in fast-tracking  procurement of PPE,”  Kupelo said.

District managers had been sent to the  hospital to address the striking workers, he added.

“Due to this pandemic there is fear, but at the same time, just as we have an obligation as a government not to send people to confront an enemy without weapons, so we have got to provide  PPEs,” Kupelo said. 

“We have already started  to procure PPE for the province and we have set aside R72m for the first batch to ensure  that there are  PPEs in various facilities.

“There are private companies that have  donated some of these much-needed PPEs.”

Judy Ngoloyi, spokesperson for health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, confirmed that the critical patient had been moved to the high-care section at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital.

lulamilef@dispatch.co.za


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