Employees are expected to return to work only after the premises are decontaminated.
WORKERS at the Galeshewe Day Hospital refused to enter the facility on Thursday after discovering that a sixth employee reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 this week.
The workers, who were later addressed by their different union representatives, went home and are expected to return to work only after the premises are decontaminated by the Department of Health.
It is believed that the day hospital will remain closed for the weekend and only resume operations on Monday.
The employees accused the hospital’s management of putting their health at risk, pointing out that the last time the hospital was closed was after the first Covid-19 case was recorded in early June.
The latest person to test positive is apparently a nurse who received her results on Wednesday. Before then, she had, according to the workers, reported for duty and had interacted with patients and the public.
The angry workers said on Thursday that they had only learnt of the last five cases the day before. They accused management of keeping the cases a secret and failing to follow procedures and decontaminate the premises.
One of the workers claimed that when they sought clarity from management regarding the positive cases at the hospital, they were instructed to apply for Sassa grants if they did not want to work.
“What the employer is doing is not right because it is supposed to ensure that we are protected as we are essential workers,’ said the employee.
“We are not discriminating against the person who has tested positive because it was not her choice to be infected with this virus. In fact, we respect her because she was the one who was in charge of our safety and issued us with PPEs.
“Now we are ridiculed for requesting that the facility be decontaminated so that we can continue with our work.”
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has accused the department of “short-circuiting” the procedures.
Nehawu provincial nurses co-ordinator Godfrey Davids advised patients to visit neighbouring clinics and Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital (RMSH) while the Galeshewe Day Hospital was closed.
He said pregnant women would also be referred to RMSH, adding that there were only two patients under observation at the facility, who, he stated, would be transferred.
According to Davids, all unions made a joint decision to leave it up to the Department of Health to ensure that the premises were decontaminated so that the workers could return to work.
“The employer needs to follow the correct protocol and not attempt to short-circuit the process. That is just making things more complicated and the workers feel that their rights are being trampled on,” said Davids.
“We are fighting this pandemic together.”
He claimed that the situation was even worse at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital.
“There it is even worse. More and more workers are testing positive but the department is not taking the issue seriously.”
Davids added that as soon as the Galeshewe Day Hospital premises were decontaminated, the workers would return to work.
The Department of Health did not respond to media enquiries.