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City prison identified as quarantine site

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Officials have threatened to down tools if the hospital section at the Tswelopele Correctional Centre is utilised to quarantine Northern Cape inmates who display Covid-19 symptoms.

CORRECTIONAL Services officials at Tswelopele Correctional Centre in Kimberley have threatened to down tools following reports that the hospital section at the facility will be utilised to quarantine Northern Cape inmates who display Covid-19 symptoms.

Public Servants Association (PSA) provincial manager Steve Ledibane said on Friday that the union’s members did not want to enter the facility until their concerns about being exposed to the virus were addressed.

“Members were informed that the hospital at Tswelopele Correctional Centre is being prepared as a treatment centre for inmates from other centres in the Province,” said Ledibane.

“The PSA contacted the Kimberley area commissioner who indicated that the Tswelopele Correctional Centre will only be utilised for presumptive cases from Northern Cape correctional centres.”

Ledibane stated that the general lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) at correctional centres in the Province, including the hospital facility, continued to pose a risk to the safety of officials.  

“There are only eight nursing staff at the hospital that has a maximum capacity of 60 beds. The shortage of medical staff will exacerbate the problem because Tswelopele Correctional Centre already has a population of more than 2 000 inmates.

“We call on the regional commissioner to prioritise the supply of PPEs to the correctional centre, before the situation spirals out of control.”

He also alleged that union members were threatened when they refused to undergo screening at Tswelopele Correctional Centre.

“Staff members were subjected to screening at the entrance of the facility this week. Members had to self-screen in a small and ill-equipped office. This alarmed our members as it went against the directives of social distancing.

“Following an intervention, screening was moved to the respective units. Identified nurses and designated staff will be responsible for screening.

“Members are advised to continue to observe the regulations around Covid-19 and stay away from potentially dangerous situations.”

Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo confirmed that the hospital section at Tswelopele Correctional Centre was identified as a site to quarantine or isolate any offender in the Northern Cape presumed to be a Covid-19 case.

“Offenders from Kimberley, Upington and Colesberg will be accommodated at Tswelopele Correctional Centre. Currently there are no positive cases in the Northern Cape. However, should the need arise, the facility will be occupied,” said Nxumalo.

He added that once the hospital had reached full capacity, park homes would be used for isolation purposes.

“The length of stay in a quarantine area will be determined according to the guidelines on Covid-19 as provided by the World Health Organization and the Department of Health.

“Critical offenders must be transferred to the hospitals identified by the Department of Health for treating Covid-19 positive cases.”

Nxumalo stated that training was conducted for officials when dealing with positive Covid-19 inmates.

“We will continue to roll out the programme, as the dynamics change constantly.” 

He said that all correctional centres were provided with PPEs.

“We monitor the stock levels on a continuous basis. Where shortages are experienced, the department has a system in place to assist correctional centres in need of stock while awaiting delivery. Centres have the flexibility to share resources. We continue to engage with our officials and inmates.”

Nxumalo indicated that the department employed health care officials, including nurses, sessional doctors and pharmacists, to assist with Covid-19 inmates. 

He said that mass screening and testing was being rolled out across the country.

“Screening is continuously taking place at all our centres for both inmates and officials. We have implemented improved personal and environmental hygiene, provision of personal equipment, sanitisation and decontamination programmes.”