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NC dept denies health centre closed due to lack of funds to sanitise facility

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The allegations were made by the DA’s Dr Izak Fritz, who said in a statement that the facility was forced to close after two staff members and a cleaner tested positive for Covid-19 on the weekend.

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THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health has denied claims that the Carnarvon Community Health Centre (CHC) was forced to close down on Sunday night due to a lack of funds to sanitise the facility.

The allegations were made by the DA’s Dr Izak Fritz, who said in a statement that the facility was forced to close after two staff members and a cleaner tested positive for Covid-19 on the weekend.

“After their test results were received, it was established that not only was the facility out of the necessary cleaning and sanitising supplies, but also that the facility did not have the funds to have the building sanitised by a cleaning company.

“A meeting between stakeholders, councillors and the Health Department on Sunday night eventually resulted in a decision being taken to temporarily close down the facility.”

Fritz added that the decision meant that two patients had to be discharged and two be transferred to the De Aar Hospital.

“The above situation is very worrying indeed. Even more so considering that on Saturday night the premier, Dr Zamani Saul, issued a social media warning to citizens of the Province, stating that the Northern Cape was now experiencing an exponential surge in cases,” Fritz said further.

He added that countless reassurances had been received from the government that the Department of Health was prepared and that there are no shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical supplies.

“Having had five months to prepare for the Northern Cape surge, it is therefore most distressing to learn that facilities like Carnarvon do not have the necessary sanitiser, cleaning supplies and possibly other PPE necessary to protect staff and patients. If the Province has not been readying itself for the peak, what has it been doing for the last 150 days? How has it been maintaining infection control and preventing further spread of the coronavirus within facilities?”

The DA indicated last week that it would be making a special call for an urgent Covid-19 briefing, adding that this followed reports that a massive testing backlog had developed, that Kimberley’s Covid-19 facility was full and that overflow patients were being accommodated in the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital.

“We will now push harder for this meeting. The latest incident has not only exposed the department’s failure to make sure that districts are prepared for the pandemic surge, but also that facility managers are fully briefed and have a clear understanding of the necessary protocol and regulations that need to be followed,” Fritz added.

The Northern Cape Department of Health’s spokesperson, Lebogang Majaha, however, refuted claims that the community health centre had to close down due to a lack of funds to sanitise the facility.

“The policies of the department are very clear as to what must happen in the event that a staff member tests positive for Covid-19. The policy on infection prevention and control is also very clear as to what steps need to be taken by all staff members in our health facilities,” Majaha added.

“The department didn’t refuse to appoint a service provider to disinfect the facility. We have a disinfection team and the members identified were assigned to Carnarvon yesterday (Monday). We apologise to the local community members and wish to assure them that the facility will be operational tomorrow (Wednesday).”

He further gave the assurance that there were no shortages of PPE or cleaning material at Carnarvon CHC or the district. “We don’t have a testing backlog in the Province as the turnaround times are within the expected time.”

Majaha said the current staff have been trained in the department’s facilities to ensure that a uniform approach takes place across the Province in the case of all disinfections.