STAFF members at Professor ZK Matthews Hospital in Barkly West refused to attend to the body of a Covid-19 patient, who died on Tuesday morning, because, they said, they do not have personal protective equipment (PPEs).
Staff have refused to enter the facility since Monday morning as they believe that they are overworked and that their health is being placed at risk.
The workers said that they were supposed to be addressed by the management of the hospital on Monday but the promised meeting never materialised, so they went home after 4pm and returned to sit outside the hospital on Tuesday.
While they were outside, they learnt that a Covid-19 positive patient, believed to be one of two Covid patients at the hospital, had died.
The nursing staff, as well as EPWP workers, refused to attend to the body as they said they did not have PPEs.
The hospital reportedly only has three assistant nurses and one qualified nurse, who are expected to work in all sections of the facility.
The casualty ward is reportedly closed due to the shortage of staff and the only available nurse is permanently based in the maternity ward.
On Tuesday, the assistant nurses allegedly refused to follow instructions from management to run the clinic at De Beers Hoogte, as they are not allowed to work without a qualified nurse.
The hospital staff indicated that their health and safety is being compromised and that they have raised their concerns with the CEO but nothing has been done to improve their working conditions.
They claim that the hospital does not adhere to Covid-19 guidelines and that workers are exposed to dangerous conditions.
One of the workers said that the hospital was not disinfected in line with the required protocols. He said the last time that decontamination was done at the hospital, the staff and the patients were not evacuated. As a result, he stated, a worker fell ill after being exposed to chemicals.
“Another nurse is currently in quarantine after she tested positive. An EPWP worker meanwhile has been exposed to the virus, after he had to clean a Covid-19 ward without PPEs.
“When a Covid patient is admitted or dies at the hospital, there is no decontamination of the ward or at the mortuary,” said the worker.
The hospital was apparently decontaminated on Tuesday following intervention by the Dikgatlong Local Municipality, although the patients were allegedly not evacuated.
“We were told that the patients would be transferred to the Hartswater hospital while others would be discharged but we did not see any of that happening.
“Now people who are already sick have also been exposed to the chemicals.”
The workers said further that the hospital did not have sufficient oxygen, which puts the lives of many patients at risk.
One staff member pointed out that final-year student nurses were just “sitting at home” and were not being utilised effectively by the provincial Department of Health.
“The students are sitting at home, getting paid, and are frustrated because they need to work those hours in order to graduate. This is happening at a time when there is a dire need for staff in the health sector.”
The Northern Cape Department of Health did not respond to attempts to obtain comment.