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Patients transferred to ‘pigsty’

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“Even if they had accommodated us in a clean hall, it would have been much better.”

FILE PHOTO

THE FAMILIES of patients who were moved from Harmony Home to the old West End Hospital yesterday accused the Northern Cape Department of Health of dumping their loved ones at a “pigsty” in order to accommodate Covid-19 patients.

According to the families, the patients were transported from Harmony Home on Monday afternoon after supper and arrived at their new premises in the dark.

They come from different towns in the Province and were accommodated at Harmony Home while they received treatment at the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley this week.

According to upset family members, they were met at the old West End Hospital with “dirty and spooky premises, with dust on the beds instead of linen”.

Stray dogs and cats walk around the premises, while there are holes in the ground that appear to be similar to snake holes, they said.

Upon their arrival at the facility, the patients reportedly had to use an old bucket, a broom and a mop, which they found on the premises, to clean the room before they could sleep there.

Broken chairs and other items of furniture, non-matching shoes and clothing were lying scattered on the floor, together with overflowing rubbish bags.

There is no cellphone network available to communicate with their families and they said they have to drink dirty water.

The patients, of which four are women and five are men, said they had to clean the toilets and basins with some old, unknown gel that they found on the premises as they could not endure the filth.

The caretaker arrived at the premises before they went to sleep and told them he had been woken up to open up for them. They were handed the keys of their sleeping quarters by the security guards, with strict instructions to stay locked up as there was a baboon in the veld inside the yard.

One of the sisters had to phone around to get someone to deliver food for them as some of them are diabetic.

A family member of one of the patients expressed her disgust and said the patients were first moved back and forth between the two facilities.

“The conditions our own government put us in are inhuman. The patients arrived at Harmony Home on Sunday and were moved to West End, where they complained of the filthy conditions upon their arrival. They were returned to Harmony Home and got ready as usual and went for their treatment at Robert Sobukwe Hospital on Monday. They were only told upon their return at the home that they have to make way as the Covid-19 patients were on their way,” she said.

The family questioned how the government could on the one hand encourage people to practice cleanliness to fight the coronavirus, while sick patients were kept on filthy premises.

“Our government continues to gloat of their readiness to tackle Covid-19, but instead they create disaster on top of disaster. There is no planning or proper communication at all. This is no way to fight the virus. They expose patients to the virus by moving them to a dirty facility.

She also questioned whether Harmony Home was prepared to accommodate the Covid-19 patients, for whom their family member had to make way for.

The patients said they are not ready to return to the same premises on their next visit to hospital, scheduled for June.

“This is a disaster. We cannot be expected to accept such treatment, only because we are away from our homes. The department should have informed us not to come and rescheduled our appointments instead,” said one patient.

“Even if they had accommodated us in a clean hall, it would have been much better.”

The Northern Cape Department of Health did not respond to media enquiries by the time of going to print.